Rubén Amaro Jr. lives and breathes Philadelphia
With the sport of baseball running through his veins, Rubén Amaro Jr. has made the city’s MLB team a major part of his life and career.
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Editor's Note: Jensen Toussaint contributed to the writing of this article.
Born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Rubén Amaro Jr. has done a lot within the sport of baseball, the city and its local MLB team.
He is a former professional baseball player, general manager, and coach.
Since leaving those positions, he most recently became a television analyst and commentator for the sport.
If there are two things that run deep in the Amaro family, it’s baseball and diversity. And there are clear reasons as to why.
A Rich Family History
Amaro Jr. is the son of former Major League Baseball shortstop and coach, Rubén Amaro Sr. and his mother Judy Amaro-Perez. He is also the grandson of former competitor in the Mexican and Cuban baseball leagues, Santos Amaro.
Amaro Jr. has an interesting mix when it comes to both heritage and religion.
He is of Mexican-Catholic descent on his father’s side, Cuban-Catholic from his grandfather’s side, and Russian-Jewish from his mother’s side.
Not much is known about his Russian-Jewish side; however, his Russian grandmother possibly came to Philadelphia at a time early in the 1900s. While the Russian part of his heritage isn’t well-documented, much is known about his Mexican/Cuban side.
“Being both Catholic and Jewish was different but neither one of my parents was super religious. I think more than anything else, their goal was for my brother and me to be exposed to all kinds of things. And so they let us make our own choices,” Rubén Amaro Jr. said in an interview with AL DÍA News.
His grandfather met his grandmother, who was playing as a catcher for the Mexican women’s team during the Pan American Games, in México.
Amaro Jr.’s parents met in Philadelphia, when his father was playing with the Phillies.
His mother, like him, is a Philadelphian born of immigrant descent. His father, on the other hand, took great pride in both his Mexican and Cuban backgrounds. Amaro Jr. speaks Spanish and his children do also thanks to their heritage.
Amaro Jr. mentioned that he also descends from Spain and Africa after having done a DNA test, but is continuing to study his family’s past.
An Exposure to Athletics
Given the fact that both his grandfather and father were prominent athletes, athletics just came as a natural part of the family’s genes.
“I never knew if I was going to play baseball. It was just part of my and my brother’s life from a young age,” Amaro Jr. said.
Amaro Jr. first became involved in sports during camps. However, he never participated specifically in camp dedicated entirely to baseball.
It wasn’t until the age of nine that he started becoming more involved in baseball, playing for the Little League, Crispin Gardens Pee-Wees.
About halfway through his teenage years, he became the bat boy for the Philadelphia Phillies. It was from 1980 to 1983, when his father was the team’s first base coach.
“When I was bat boy, I was around some Philly greats for a long, long time,” said Amaro Jr., noting players like Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Steve Carlton.
Still uncertain what sport to play, Amaro Jr. graduated from William Penn Charter School in 1983, having played both baseball and soccer.
“I grew up living and breathing nothing but baseball, thanks to my father and grandfather who were both great influences. Yet I also loved soccer as a kid but eventually gravitated completely to baseball because of my involvement as a bat boy which for me I feel put me completely on the baseball side,” Amaro Jr. added.
Amaro Jr. almost played soccer at a collegiate level. When he played in high school he was close to recruitment, but informed recruiters that baseball was his preferred sport due to his greater interest as it still is today.
Both his father and grandfather were great influences in his decision to play baseball, as both of them did so. However, it wasn’t a given.
Amaro Jr. said that his grandfather wanted his son to go to medical school. However, he instead signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“From that standpoint, my grandfather had some influence on my dad, but as far as me personally… I basically grew up in baseball,” said Amaro Jr.
“My father was not just a player, he ended up entering into the front office and working for the Phillies in the front office, as a system farm director, the coordinator of Latin American scouting for many years,” he continued.
Within the different capacities his father was in, Amaro Jr.’s knowledge and exposure toward the sport simply grew, and became the basis for him carving his own path into the sport.
He attended Stanford University, where he was a member of the NCAA 1987 College World Series team.
Onto a Professional Career
In 1987, Amaro Jr. began his baseball career in the minors after getting drafted by the California Angels in the 11th round.
Nearly four years later, he debuted in the major leagues for the Angels. However, in the 1991 offseason, Amaro Jr. was traded to the Phillies — his hometown team, and the team his father had the most years and biggest impact with.
Another full circle moment came for Amaro Jr., as he had the opportunity to play for the same team he worked as a bat boy for a decade prior.
“It was really a dream come true,” Amaro Jr. said. “It was the start of the relationship that I’ve had with the Phillies for a long time.”
It also marked the first time he made a major league team.
“And one of my dreams come true was the fact that I was standing on the lines when they announced the opening day players,” he added.
He spent a season with the Phils, before getting traded to the Cleveland Indians and later returning to the Phillies, playing two separate stints with his hometown team.
Amaro Jr.’s pro baseball career lasted eight years, and he ended his career with a .235 batting average, 16 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 99 runs.
Making a Transition
Almost immediately after retiring from his playing career in 1998, Amaro Jr. transitioned to the front office.
“I was very fortunate to be able to have that opportunity,” he said. “And to do it from my hometown, to do it for an organization that I grew up knowing and loving was really a dream come true.”
Amaro Jr. served 10 seasons as the Phillies’ assistant general manager, and was on hand for the Phillies’ World Series win in 2008.
Just days after the World Series win, Amaro Jr. became the team’s new general manager and senior vice president.
His tenure as GM ended in 2015, to which he made another transition, this time as a coach.
“I bounced around quite a bit with my transition from athlete to coach. But my very first step, after retiring as a player was as an assistant GM, and that was not easy because I had a bunch of friends on that team,” Amaro Jr. said.
After being let go by the Phillies, Amaro Jr. was hired as a first base coach for the Boston Red Sox, and then the New York Mets.
For him, he felt that opened another kind of world in the dugout, the clubhouse and with the players.
However, his heart remained in one place.
“The Phillies are my team and they always will be, that'll never change,” Amaro Jr. said. “Even when I was working for the Mets and the Red Sox, I still held the Phillies near and dear to my heart.”
He called his 17 years as an executive with the Phillies front office or “those years in a suit,” “really special to me.”
Another Return and a Rare Distinction
In 2020, Amaro Jr. was hired as a pre-game and post-game television analyst and part-time commentator for NBC Sports Philadelphia, covering the Phillies.
His lifelong passion for the city, the team and the sport has never wavered, which is why he carries it with him in every role.
“Being able to talk about and analyze baseball for the public is enjoyable. I like talking about the sport. It's been my life and for me to be able to give my knowledge and some of my experience in the variety of things that I've done is great. I take a great deal of pride in that. And I'm still learning,” Amaro Jr. said.
Amaro Jr. today lies in both the All-American Amateur Baseball Association and Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
“It's pretty cool and unique to be part of two different Halls of Fames. I don't know that there are too many people who have had that opportunity. I take a great deal of pride in my background and thank my parents for helping me reach these opportunities,” Amaro Jr. said.
Amaro Jr. believes that he will not be the last multiculturally diverse person to be inducted into any of the two Halls of Fame.
In his view, there is a very diverse future ahead.