Summers on the Boulevard

How a Mother's Career Helped Pave Her Son's All-Star Path
by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Think of any town where you've lived for a while. 

Certain things you never forget, right?

A favorite outdoor space, like a park or walking path. 

Your go-to Friday night pizza spot.

The local ice cream shoppe. 

Almost two decades ago, a successful sports journalist relocated from the Domincan Republic to Philadelphia.

At that point, just 12 years into her career, she was already a well-respected, multi-tool talent in her home country, a reporter who could both carry a broadcast and write a column. Baseball, basketball, and volleyball were her primary beats. 

If you've ever worked in sports media, or are familiar with the field, you know the deal. Lots of fun, but plenty of long hours, and, in all likelihood, a transient lifestyle. 

When the next good gig comes along, you're probably taking it, because you essentially have to. Surviving and advancing is part of the game. 

So in 2001, when Arelis Reynoso was approached by El Sol Latino Newspaper, a prominent hispanic media outlet in the United States, she felt she couldn't pass on the opportunity. 

Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Reynoso settled in the Northeast, at the Oakland Terrace apartment complex. The two-story, all-brick building literally runs right along the southbound side of Roosevelt Boulevard, between Horrocks and Benner (Devereaux is the closest cross street of note). 

Only a slab of sidewalk and grass separated the development from an endless stream of vehicles constantly whizzing by.

It was a period of Reynoso's life that these days she still remembers fondly. 

The work. The places and neighborhoods where she did her reporting. The overall vibes of the city.

"Sometimes, you never know what you're going to do one time in your life," Reynoso said. "That's why you need to appreciate everything and hold it in your memory, and try to do your best."

While Reynoso was busy in Philadelphia covering local stories for El Sol, her oldest child was a timezone away, in Lansing, Michigan.

He was a basketball player, just like his dad, and a damn good one.

In high school, he was named state player of the year.

He had offers from countless big-time college programs, including Villanova. 

He ultimately chose the University of Florida, and won back-to-back national titles as a sophomore and junior.

In the spring of 2007, Al Horford declared for the NBA Draft, and was picked third overall behind Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. He has since proven to be the second-most valuable player from that year's class. 

After Arelis Reynoso moved to Philadelphia, Horford would spend summers here with his mom. Holiday vacations and spring breaks, too.

The duo immersed themselves in the city. They'd go to Penn's Landing, scope out Market Street, visit the Kimmel Center, and check out North Philadelphia's Hispanic community.

"He'd always be around, and that was a great experience," Reynoso said in a recent interview. "That's why he knows so many things about Philly. For example, SEPTA, the buses, the trains."

When Horford was in town, meals were typically cooked at home.

"I tried to make his favorite dishes," said Reynoso. 

But when mom and son did go out, the Boston Market on Levick was a frequent stop. So was Tierras Colombianas, a Northeast institution.

"It's the most popular Colombian restaurant in the city," Reynoso said. "We ate at a couple Dominican restaurants in the city, too."

Oh, and Rita's. When it got hot out, Reynoso and Horford had to go to Rita's.

"We loved [it]!," she said.

With Horford currently in his 13th NBA season, sure, it makes for a nice little subplot that all these years later, he now finds himself back in Philadelphia.  

But for as much as the Delaware Valley is a sentimental place for Reynoso and Horford, they both also recognize the impact those trips had on his holistic development. 

In her years as a reporter, Reynoso made plenty of contacts, particularly in sports, and especially in baseball. During the summer, Horford often accompanied her to games at Citizens Bank Park (fun fact: he says he attended the first game ever played at the stadium).

By moonlighting as mom's "assistant" (her word), Horford was given an inside glimpse into the world of professional sports. The education was invaluable. 

"I was exposed to a lot of environments that I really enjoyed," said Horford. "I really enjoyed the competitiveness of it, how athletes performed and prepared. I think from that point of view, she exposed me to a lot of different areas. I think it helped shape me as a player, and made me appreciate the work that goes behind preparing for a game, and how I should go about training."

"He’s always tried to be involved in my stuff," said Reynoso, whom Horford told when he was eight that he was going to be an NBA player. "The older he was growing, he’d go with me for example to the stadium. When I had an interview, he’d come with me, he’d take care of my purse, my notes, everything. 

"He always had criticism. He’d say, 'Oh yes, Mom, I like this,' or 'Oh no, Mom, you need to do this in this way.' He’d always been involved in my life too, in my professional career, and that’s so exciting."

To this day, Horford can still recall one of the most powerful interactions he had with a star Reynoso covered. 

"One of the times I went to one of the Phillies games, that's when I met Sammy Sosa," he said, referring to the Dominican-born MVP. 

"That was really so important," Reynoso said. "Sammy knew Al was going [to the game]. Before the game, in the batting practice, Al was next to Sammy. He had the opportunity to join him and that’s really awesome. He loved that!"

Pedro Martinez was another Latin standout Horford met. 

"Guys like that had very encouraging words for me at a very young age that went a long way for me, helping me to get where I'm at today."

A mother's path, helping pave the way for a son's special journey.

"She probably had a bigger influence than she imagined," Horford said.

With Philadelphia, and lasting memories of their shared time here, playing a central role. 

Horford has given Reynoso the Mother's Day gift that keeps on giving.

"It’s a blessing," she said, "to have his dreams coming true."

To hear more from Reynoso and Horford, and stories about his upbringing and Philadelphia, check out a special Mother's Day edition of The BroadCast.


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