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Ronel Blanco

Ronel Blanco rewards his mother’s faith with no-hitter

Ronel Blanco's mother remembers the family's sacrifices

HOUSTON – After celebrating his no-hitter near the mound with his teammates, Ronel Blanco searched for his mother Monday night at Minute Maid Park. The Astros’ righthander from the Dominican Republic hugged his mother Maria tightly as they counted their blessings while remembering all the rejections and sacrifices they endured along the way.

A weaker person would have never persevered long enough to even garner the longshot, inexpensive $5,000 lifeline the Astros gave Blanco when he was more of a suspect than a prospect as a 22-year-old eight years ago in the Dominican.

By the time former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow approved his $5,000 signing bonus, Ronel Blanco had already been rejected by almost half a dozen big league organizations who considered him as an outfielder. 

The New York Mets passed on him at their Dominican academy. He then spent time at the Yankees’ academy, where he was rejected as well. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays also weren’t impressed enough to sign him after he visited their academies.

After each rejection, Blanco’s mother reminded him that God had a plan for him. 

‘Always his dream’

“This was always his dream, to be a ballplayer,” Maria said of her son. “I would tell him, ‘God willing, you will achieve it.’ Behind God, I’m very proud to be the mother of Ronel Blanco.”

Maria played the role of mother and father for Blanco. As a single mother, she supported Blanco and his two siblings by running a coffee shop in Santiago, D.R.

“Maria’s Cafeteria,” as the business was called, was a small coffee stand. Maria arrived at the shop most days at 4 a.m. The stand remained open until 2 p.m. After closing for an hour, Maria re-opened the shop again until 11 p.m.


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She worked those long hours to help Ronel Blanco maintain his baseball dreams well past an age when most Major League Baseball franchises stop considering prospects. 

“She was a very big push,” Blanco says of his mother. “It was a  big motivation that she wouldn’t let me quit. I’m grateful for that.” 

As she watched her son dominate the Blue Jays for a 10-0 victory, Maria thought of those long shifts. She recalled the difficulties she overcame trying to support her kids as a single mother.

Single mother

“It reminds me of a lot of things because truly I was mother and father at the same time,” she said after her son’s eighth big league start. 

Blanco made his big league debut in 2022. He appeared in seven games in relief, posting a 7.11 ERA over 6 ⅓ innings that season. He made 17 more appearances last season, seven of them starts, while going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA. 

Blanco entered spring training as a longshot to earn a spot in the rotation, but he capitalized when injuries opened up an opportunity. He was named the Astros’ fifth starter before his final appearance of spring training hours after his second baby was born. 

Blanco delivered a classic in his 2024 debut. With a splendid changeup, slider and fastball, Blanco kept the Blue Jays off balance after issuing a leadoff walk to George Springer to start the game. He didn’t let another Blue Jay reach base until he issued a two-out walk to Springer in the ninth.

Blanco then induced a grounder to second from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to complete the no-hitter. He struck out seven Blue Jays while throwing 73 of his career-high 105 pitches for strikes.

Most top prospects in the Dominican Republic and throughout Latin America sign at 16 or 17 years old. 

Blanco had to wait until he was 22. He would return home dejected after each team gave up on him.

“Para ‘delante,” Maria would tell Ronel in Spanish, essentially telling him to look ahead and keep marching toward his goals.

Ronel Blanco thanks mother

Maria never gave up on Ronel. More importantly, perhaps, he never gave up on himself. And on a glorious night in Houston with a crowd of 27,285 on their feet, Blanco had one of the most unexpected displays of brilliance in Astros history.

“The big thing was that God was preparing him for where he is now,” Maria said. “The only thing I would tell him was ‘Para ‘delante. That triumph is with you, God willing.’”

Blanco’s no-hitter was the 17th in Astros history and the first since Framber Valdez threw a no-hitter last Aug. 1 against the Cleveland Guardians. Blanco dedicated his no-hitter to his family.

“This is for her,” he said while hugging his mother, “and for my family.”

Then he bent toward his oldest daughter’s stroller, smiled, hugged the toddler, kissed her and then returned to the Astros’ clubhouse to get dressed so he could go home to his wife and newborn.

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