Colato Blazing Trail Many Thought Impossible

Senior Writer/Grand Canyon University

PHOENIX, Ariz. — If not for El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, Fernandomania in California, hitting wads of paper with a broomstick, an uncle living in Phoenix and a chance Christmastime meeting, Juan Colato might not be playing his senior year at Grand Canyon University with two bright futures — in baseball and engineering.

Pursuing a college degree on a baseball scholarship was the goal that his parents, Marcos and Katia, set for their oldest child when they hatched a plan as he started school in San Salvador.

Juan backed the plan with passion and purpose in the years since then.

He is now believed to be the first player born and raised in El Salvador to play Division I baseball on an athletic scholarship.

“It’s like a movie script for him because he’s been battling a lot of players, obstacles, the language and coaches who didn’t believe in him,” Marcos said.

“It’s a very nice story that he made for himself.”

Juan is a success in numbers, whether it be his team-leading .367 batting average last season, his 3.5 GPA in engineering or being the one Salvadoran among 6.5 million to blaze this trail for his country.

With equal parts scheme, drive and serendipity, Juan relishes the opportunity he has seized.

“It means a lot to me,” Juan said.

“I try not to forget it. I try to always remember where I came from. I try to always think about my friends who weren’t as lucky as I was, to have my uncle here and all the other stuff. I work hard for it.”

When the civil war began in El Salvador in 1979, Marcos’ father moved the family to San Jose, Calif., once he became a target.

In the U.S., Marcos and his brother, Oscar, quickly fell in love with baseball, especially when Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Fernando Valenzuela stirred an international Latino following in the 1980s with his Hall-of-Fame work on the mound.

The Colatos returned to El Salvador in 1986, but an impression of the American pastime and educational opportunities were laid.

Twelve years later, Marcos and Katia welcomed the first of three kids, Juan. They strategically introduced baseball to him at age 6 after he developed a disdain for swimming and as they avoided soccer for its popularity.

For nearly a month, Juan cried that he did not want to play baseball.

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