ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Bay gained a talented athlete in 2020 when the St. Louis Cardinals traded Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays. Exactly 15 months later, his brother Raiko Arozarena joined the Tampa Bay area signing with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
“I had never imagined to be with my brother in the same city,” said Rowdies goalkeeper Raiko Arozarena via translator Juan Serna. “This is like destiny that put us in the same city. I’m very excited for this.”
Coming to a new country where he doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t know the area can present its own challenges but having family here has eased the transition.
“I feel very confident to have my brother next to me and we support each other,” Raiko said. “I didn’t know anything about St. Pete, but I was very excited to be in the U.S.– any city. I’m very happy to be in St. Pete right now.”
“We learned a lot last year in the pandemic about our players in terms of what’s the support system that they’ve got around, and if they don’t have that family, what can we do to help,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “So when you’re bringing in a new player like Raiko and you know his brother is in town, it’s a great start… We know that when the players are happy off the field, they’re certainly a lot better on the field.”
Raiko and Randy are both in-season right now and when their schedules allow, they go out to each other’s game to cheer one another on. For Raiko, he was blown away when he first went to Tropicana Field.
“I was so excited to see the baseball stadium because I have never been in a baseball stadium like that with the roof and everything,” Raiko said. “I fell in love the first time I saw the stadium. It’s very good to cheer for my brother during his games. He’s come for one game and he’s coming every time he can.”
Raiko said they have a lot of similarities and hardly any differences. The most obvious similarity to the outside world is that they now both wear the same jersey number—56.
“I was very happy to pick the number 56,” Raiko said. “I picked that number because (Randy) was 56 with the Rays.”
“Generally, one to 11 are the numbers that players want,” Collins said. “So if Raiko wanted 56, great. If it means something to him and no one else wants it, that makes my life even easier… I think to have both Arozarenas wearing 56 in Tampa is great for the fans.”
Raiko, 24, is the younger of the two Arozarena professional athletes. However, 26-year-old Randy is the oldest of actually three Arozarena brothers. The youngest brother is Ronny, who unfortunately for the Tampa sports market is not pursuing a professional sports career.
“My mom always wanted a girl but we are three brothers,” Raiko said. “We can try to put Ronny on one of the other teams in Tampa—maybe Buccaneers or Lightning.”
“If (Ronny) could have played hockey then the Lightning would have been happy,” Collins joked. “I think it just shows you that in every family everyone’s different and we’re just so happy that Raiko’s a fantastic goalkeeper.”
The Arozarena family is originally from Cuba and has had quite the journey to take them to Florida which even involved the pair splitting up for a time before being reunited in another country.
“(Randy) escaped from Cuba by boat,” Raiko shared. “He went to Mexico and after he was established in Mexico, he brought my mom and my other brother. He brought us the legal way to Mexico and we lived there for three years.”
“I’m sure that’s what’s drove the whole family on to the success that they’ve achieved right now,” Collins said. “Everyone’s fighting their own battles and some people a lot bigger than others—and much bigger than sports. But how many great people—not just athletes—have come from environments like that where they’ve had to struggle so it’s just great to see that they’re doing so well. That will I’m sure, keep them very humble no matter what success that they’ve had and just eager to achieve everything that they can. They’ve got the opportunity and hopefully we can give them that opportunity.”