Many first generation immigrants come to the United States searching just for an opportunity to fulfill the “American Dream.” Bradley head baseball coach Elvis Dominguez’s opportunity to live out that dream came through baseball.
Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, Dominguez immigrated with his family to Miami as a child. With baseball being the national pastime of Cuba, it’s been his passion from a young age.
“You see every day, in the big leagues all of these Latin guys,” Dominguez said. “I grew up with a love of baseball in my blood … with a big Cuban population down [in Miami], that pretty much kept fueling it.”
Growing up in southern Florida during the late ʼ70s, Dominguez was surrounded by future big leaguers like Jose Conseco and Danny Tartabull. The competitive nature of Miami baseball molded him into a star shortstop for Christopher Columbus High School.
The college recruitment process was very convenient for Dominguez when his once-high school coach and future Chicago Cubs General Manager, Jim Hendry, was hired as an assistant at Creighton University. Thanks to that connection, he had the opportunity to become the first member of his family to pursue a college education.
Luckily, he had some company, as he and three of his high school teammates took their talents from South Beach to Omaha.
“Getting a chance to play for someone who coached you in high school … was a blessing,” Dominguez said.
With familiar faces surrounding him, Dominguez continued to build on the discipline he gained in high school because of the structure Hendry brought.
Dominguez stacked up playing time, starting all four years at Creighton. Notably, he boasted a .348 batting average his senior year in 1986. The program saw winning records during his time at Creighton, but he doesn’t like focusing on his own stats. Instead, Dominguez remembers the relationships that turned him into who he is today.
“Being around all those guys … to this day we are all so tight, so together,” Dominguez said. “We were in each other’s weddings … the culture was just so unique. Those [were] the most important and most formidable years of my life.”
In the classroom, he originally was an accounting major. He soon realized it wasn’t for him, changing his major to kinesiology and secondary education, hoping to one day give others an opportunity to succeed.
“I hated [accounting],” Dominguez said. “I wasn’t a numbers guy, I wanted to be a people person. I wanted to get into something sports-wise and I wanted to teach … being a first generation kid that actually got a chance … I wanted to be able to pass it on.”
Right after finishing his undergraduate degree, he was picked up as a graduate assistant coach at Creighton, before pursuing a career in education and coaching at the high school level. It didn’t take him long to get back on the college scene when he came back to Creighton as an assistant in 1993.
Looking back now on his college experience, Dominguez realizes the big picture. As a first generation immigrant, his education was much more than a degree or a continuation of his baseball career. Instead, his education meant he was able to take advantage of the vast opportunities this country provided him and his family.
“To be given an opportunity that your parents couldn’t have, just to be able to have the opportunity to do what you want to do … There’s nothing better than that,” Dominguez said. “There’s a driving force behind it, not only are you doing it for yourself … you see that [you] got a lot more people that don’t have the same opportunity that [you] do … and you say, ‘I can’t let them down.’”
Entering his 12th season at the reigns of the Bradley baseball program, he’s seen tremendous success. Dominguez brought the Braves to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 for the first time since 1968. After COVID-19 ended the 2020 campaign prematurely, he hopes to continue giving his players that ever-important word; opportunity.
“It’s more about, ‘How can we fill the back of your baseball card?’” Dominguez said. “I’ve been so happy for them that they’re able to achieve their dreams. That’s really what our profession is all about.”