Exclusive: Yvette Yzaguirre on How Her Parent's Sacrifice has Motivated Her Success
Very little can be achieved without two very important elements: sacrifice and hard work. As Latinos, it is engrained and instilled within our psyches that to go far and achieve your dreams, both of these mentalities need to be present.
Through hard work and sacrifice, dreams can be achieved—and activation specialist, Yvette Yzaguirre, knows this well. For years, the Latina chica boss has worked tirelessly to move up the ranks within the male-dominated world of sports, eventually landing a job with her dream team, the Seattle Mariners.
But Yzaguirre understands that a large part of her success is in part due to her core motivator: her family. She tells People Chica, "My life could have been so different if my parents decided it was too hard to try to become a citizen or [if] the work hours were too much. They gave me everything they could and I'm just grateful for them."
She continues, "Now, it means I do the same for my family, current and future, immediate and extended...I honor my family by continuing to try to make them proud and take care of my siblings."
In an exclusive interview for People Chica for Hispanic Heritage Month, Yzaguirre details how her family, namely her parents, have been a major source of inspiration for her and why the game of baseball has been one of the greatest loves of her life.
As a Latina, you were raised with the philosophy that hard work and dedication would pave the road to success—regardless of what that road looked like. What has your experience leading up to and once you joined the Seattle Mariners been like? How do you feel that a solid work ethic favored your journey?
To me, there is no other type of work ethic. In my culture, you're either a hard worker or you're not. Working in Minor League baseball is a grind. There is a much smaller staff, where the front office wear[s] multiple hats. You're at every game, all day every day, plus nongame day events, and more.
Prior to that, when I was in college, I focused on going to class, getting good grades, participating in internships, etc. Often, I was going to school, working and doing an internship all at the same time. Until recently, I was also working at Orangetheory Fitness part-time, while working full-time for the [Tacoma] Rainiers and the [Seattle] Mariners.
Whenever I felt tired, I would watch baseball, think of my family, and remember how much I love what I do. I reminded myself that the only difference between you and the next person is who wants it more. If you want it more, what are you willing to do for it? The only thing I could think of is to work hard and stay focused.
Watching my parents provide for our family and work hard in everything they did is something that is engrained in me. Even after a long workday, my mom would be cleaning the house and my dad would be fixing the cars or working [in] the yard. My parents showed me how to do things right—the "measure twice, cut once" concept.
Now when I walk through the ballpark and see trash on the ground, I physically cannot walk away. I must pick it up and throw it away. There was no other mindset for me, I always knew I needed to work hard and that's something that's a part of my core. My parents always said, "If you want to sit by a heater in the winter and AC in the summer, go to school and work hard."
Your family immigrated to the United States from Mexico and found your parents working in fields picking things like cherries, asparagus and potatoes. What has been the greatest lesson you've learned from the sacrifice they made to provide you and your siblings with a life filled with more opportunities than they may have had?
The greatest lesson I've learned from my parents' sacrifice is to be grateful and not waste the opportunity. The older I get, the more I understand just how significant of a sacrifice it was. What they must have gone through to put food on the table, presents under the tree at Christmas and [instill] good values in their children. They worked hard to give me a better life.
I remember my parents talking about taking out a second mortgage on the house to send me to college. It didn't matter what they needed to do—I was going. My life could have been so different if my parents decided it was too hard to try to become a citizen or [if] the work hours were too much. They gave me everything they could and I'm just grateful for them.
Now, it means I do the same for my family, current and future, immediate and extended. Family also includes close friends. I honor my family by continuing to try to make them proud and take care of my siblings.
Baseball has always been part of your life one way or another. What is it about the sport that draws you to it mind, body and soul?
I feel an emotional connection to baseball. I learned so much about life, friendship, sportsmanship and community through my time playing softball. I already loved the game so much but growing up, when things felt too heavy, I could always rely on the game. I always knew what to expect in baseball. When life didn't make sense, the one thing that did was baseball.
I remember an old softball coach saying the average play takes 23 seconds—after that you move on to the next. You get those 23 seconds to think about that play, good or bad, then move on. I try to remind myself of that same concept off the field. Feel it for the moment and keep going but be grateful.
I know firsthand what the baseball community can do for others—give people a place to belong and bring everyone together. Baseball saved my life when I was younger, and I'll forever love and be grateful to this sport.
Baseball is one of those sports that is seen as a male-dominated endeavor. As a woman and Latina, what is it like for you to be working within the ranks of a sports team? What, if any, have been some challenges you've faced?
I've been fortunate to have had incredible mentors, both men and women, throughout my career who support and value me. All of which have always wanted to see me succeed and offered to provide references or make phone calls on my behalf to help me get where I wanted to go.
Working with the Mariners, I not only have incredible male leaders, but I also have incredible female leaders to look up to. I am beyond thankful for their examples, especially our President of Business Operations, Catie Griggs. She is such an inspiring leader, and I am grateful to have been able to spend this past year learning from her.
Landing an opportunity to work with the Seattle Mariners has been a dream of yours since you were 17. What has your journey taught you about remaining steadfast to your dreams and goals in order to achieve them?
Truthfully, I applied for a position with the Mariners a few times prior to accepting the current role I'm in. I had to take "no" for an answer a few times, but one thing that remained true was my personal belief that I could do it.
I promised myself that, even though, I didn't know how or when I would work for the Mariners one day. I knew [it was] the only difference between me and someone else was who wanted it more and let me tell you, I wanted it more and still do. There is nothing you can't do but only you can push yourself to work hard towards that goal every day.
You work tirelessly to help first-generation kids like yourself have access to resources they would otherwise not know about or know how to access. How do you hope to continue to shine a light on the ability for more underserved communities to receive the same level of access as their counterparts?
One of the hardest parts of being first-generation is not understanding what resources are available to you. I didn't even know that baseball was an option for me to have a career in. My goal is to always have an open door to anyone who has questions. I am always willing to speak to someone interested in working in sports: [whether] it's speaking to a classroom, a Boys and Girls Club, someone looking to make a change in their already established career, etc.
I'm never too busy for the next generation of sports professionals. I also hope to offer representation in the front office the same way the players show it on the field. I hope that a young Latin boy or girl visit[s] T-Mobile Park and see[s] me walking around or taking players to the local hospital and say, "I want to do that one day." I hope they know that opportunities like this exist and that people who look like them can do it, too.
What is something that you would tell a younger version of yourself about the journey that lay ahead of her?
I would tell her that it's a long journey but also a really fun one—be patient, work hard and stay grateful. You learn so much along the way and meet so many people. Make sure to enjoy the journey and take moments to take it all in.
Making mistakes is okay and try not to carry them so heavy—forgive yourself. Always be coachable, you don't know everything. Get to know as many people as you can and ask lots of questions. Titles don't matter but the impact you're making does. Know your value and hold on to that.
Make sure to have a life outside of work and hobbies you like. Most of all, remember to work hard, let your product speak for itself, pay it forward, and more than anything—keep family first, always. In the end, don't forget to have fun! That's what life is all about.