Connor Joe, Robert Stephenson on Asian American Heritage

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Model status has snuck up on frontman Connor Joe. But this month, which is celebrated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, there are reminders all around that Joe is setting the table for more than the Rockies.

“Thinking back to my childhood and turning on the TV, I saw a lot of Asian players playing the game, but I learned that they were from places like Japan, Taiwan or Korea – you didn’t see too many Americans of Asian descent,” Joe, of Chinese descent, said. “I grew up in San Diego – a very diverse place with friends from all walks of life, so I never thought twice about it.

“But thinking about it, you can see young Asian American kids turning on the TV and seeing a lot of players who don’t look like them. If they turn on the TV and see me playing, that gives them the inspiration to start. Little League, go out there and have fun. I’m really proud of it.”

Joe is one of two Asian American players in the Rockies.

Rowena, the mother of right-handed relief pitcher Robert Stephenson, is Filipina. Like Joe, Stephenson doesn’t recall seeing many Filipino Americans, although former Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum was prominent during his career. Much like Joe, Stephenson’s heritage was part of the normal diversity when he grew up in Martinez, California. He understands, however, in a time of heightened and highly publicized violence against Asian Americans, that expressing pride in one’s heritage has an impact.

“That’s probably why it’s been talked about a bit more lately, which is sad for that reason,” Stephenson said. “When I was growing up, it was never something that I looked at and thought of as a good or a bad thing. Now it’s pretty cool if someone sees me and sees baseball as an opportunity for them. “

AAPIHM is a great time to inspire origin stories. Joe’s was detailed in a Rockies Magazine article published last season. His grandfather from his father’s side came to the United States in the 1940s with little, then saved money to bring the rest of his family. The grandparents on the maternal side lived in New York. The close-knit family started a dry cleaning business in Connecticut, sold it and moved the family west – where the Joes became restaurateurs in the San Diego area.

Now Joe doesn’t just inspire young players. He lives up to his inspirations.

“I’m very proud of my background and the sacrifices my grandparents made to give us this opportunity,” Joe said. “If I’m not the role model for these kids to look up to, I’m doing my grandparents a disservice.”

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