Creating a Healthier Community
Jose grew up in Santo Domingo, and from a young age he had to bum rides to baseball practice because his parents didn’t have a car. “I never gave up,” he said. “I always went to practice, and then I made it. I became a professional baseball player.”
He signed on with the Milwaukee Brewers and moved to Wisconsin in 1999. While he was initially overjoyed at his good fortune, he soon found that the transition from a life of poverty to living as a professional athlete was difficult, and his inability to speak English left him feeling isolated. “One day I called my mother and said, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to come back,’” he said. “But my mama is very tough. She was like, ‘My son, this is what you wanted. You wanted to play baseball and you got it. You need to man up.’”
His mother’s words strengthened his resolve, and he started asking his roommates for help. “That’s how I learned English, and then I was open to talk,” he said, acknowledging with a laugh that he still doesn’t speak perfectly. “I got very strong about it. When people didn’t understand me, or if they laughed at me, I didn’t care anymore.”
An injury eventually forced Jose off the team, and now he has transferred the discipline that he applied to professional baseball to training and motivating clients. In 2015 he and his wife, Whitney Townsend, created “Soul Fitness,” the business platform from which he offers training, coaching, and group fitness classes in English and Spanish. He was named “Best Personal Trainer in Jefferson County” in a recent poll taken by the Daily Union.
Jose said he’s pleased to work in profession that improves people’s lives. “I think a lot of people need that motivation,” he said. “They need someone to push them in the right way. You gotta discipline your body and discipline your mind.”
This portrait and story are part of "A Place to Call Home," a special exhibition by writer and photographer Lori Compas at the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.