Otero graduated from Ransom Everglades High School in Coconut Grove, Florida. Besides baseball, Dan also played on the golf and basketball teams in high school.
Dan was raised in Miami, where his father, Jorge's family settled after leaving Havana, Cuba in April 1961. Dan's grandfather was a businessman who'd gotten an engineering degree back home, and his grandmother was a college professor. Otero's father became a lawyer.
Sports run in the family's blood: Dan's younger brother, Ryan, is a college pitcher at the University of Miami (in 2015), and his older sister, Christina, rowed at Princeton—the same school Otero's father, uncle and aunt all went to and swam for in college.
- Otero spent most of his college pitching career at Duke, graduating early before transferring and pitching his final collegiate season for South Florida. (Dan had also considered Princeton, both his partents' alma mater.
Dan's father, Jorge, says his son was always something of an old soul.
"Ever since he was young, he's been that way," Jorge said. "He was always in that secondary player/coach role. He's always been aware; he's always been mature. I'm sure he got that from his mother."
- In 2012, Otero won the Harry S. Jordan Award, which is given in recognition of the player in his first big league camp whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the Giants' spirit.
In 2013, Dan made it to the post-season with the Oakland A's. The odyssey that carried him there is one of the strangest rookie stories around.
Oterobegan the season with the Giants, the only organization he’d known since being selected in the 21st round of the 2007 draft. Near the end of spring training, the Giants designated him for assignment, and he was picked up by the Yankees on waivers. So he made the flight to Tampa. When he got off the plane, he checked his phone messages only to learn New York had also DFA’d him.
Next came the Athletics, who picked him up on waivers and sent him to Sacramento. The A’s also had to take him off the 40-man roster and pass him through waivers, this time with no one placing a claim. So Otero, 28, began his run at Sacramento, going 1-0, 0.99 in 23 appearances. He converted all 15 of his save opportunities.
Then came the trip to the Majors.
Dan doesn't play video games. He doesn't drink coffee. He doesn't even listen to music. No, instead he does crossword puzzles. And lots of them.
"Back when I was doing my rehab for Tommy John surgery in 2009, I started doing them a lot, because I was in the training room so much," Otero said. "I would bring in four or five crosswords and just knock them out one by one."
Fast forward to the spring of 2014. Every morning when Otero arrives at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, he picks up two newspapers, sits down at his locker, and goes to work. He starts with the USA Today crossword, which he says he finishes in roughly 15 minutes or less, before moving on to the Arizona Republic, which usually includes two additional puzzles.
Otero said he likes being a cruciverbalist, someone who is skillful in creating or solving word games, because the critical thinking wakes up his brain in the morning while allowing him to simultaneously unwind and keep his mind off everything else, if only for a few minutes.
"I guess it's my caffeine," he said. (Tyler Emerick 3/11/14 )
One of Dan's biggest fans is tucked away in Miami Springs. His grandmother is 93 years old, a true treasure with a fascinating story to tell. She told it to Otero when he was in high school and writing a Spanish research paper on the history of Cuba. Because who better for him to go to than someone who had defected from the country?
"I drew back to my family history," said Otero, "and came away with this unbelievable story. I had no clue. And to think about the impact it's had on my life is crazy." Dolores Otero was 40 at the time, her husband, Alberto, 42. Each of their three children, including Dan's father, Jorge, were under the age of 10 and in danger of being brainwashed with communist thinking, she believed.
After all, as a high school mathematics and physics teacher in Havana, she had been asked by her principal to speak in favor of the Revolution during the final 10 minutes of each class. This was 1960, one year into Fidel Castro's regime.
"I didn't do it," said Dolores. "He called me again and again about it. But I wouldn't. That's when my husband decided I needed to get out of there."
Except Jorge was an engineer, and Dolores, of course, was a professor—two professions that influenced the country's infrastructure. People with these types of professions weren't allowed to leave the country. So they made a plan to do it covertly.
Dolores, already struggling to maintain her voice as a teacher, decided the only way to receive a leave of absence was to blow her vocal chords completely. She read in front of an air conditioner for hours until she could no longer speak. A specialist informed her she needed to leave work for at least two or three months.
"In the meantime," she said, "we arranged things to leave the country. We left everything as it was, furniture, clothes, everything." Her brother drove the family to the airport, where members of her school's militia nearly caught her in the act. They called for her name on the loud speaker, but only Jorge heard it. Naturally, he remained quiet.
Another woman at the airport, also named Dolores Otero, didn't. "It was a tremendous coincidence," said Dolores. "She was interviewed by the militia, and she could prove that she wasn't a math teacher and had nothing to do with it. And that was that.
"We survived the scare and made it over here. It was very hard leaving Cuba, but we've done our best here."
They settled in Hialeah, Florida, having familiarized themselves with Florida several times prior through swim meets. Each of the children swam, though baseball was always Jorge's first love. (Lee - mlb.com - 5/9/14)
Dan's father grew up playing baseball on the sandlots in Cuba, ultimately passing down this passion to Dan, who says, "He was the baseball nut of the family. They had winter ball leagues down there, so he remembers watching a lot of the Yankees legends. I remember him telling me about Hoyt Wilhelm, the Orioles knuckleball closer, who came down there a lot."
"Baseball, baseball, baseball. He loved it," Dolores said of her late husband, who passed in 2008. "He would be very happy to see his grandson doing what he's doing now."
Once in the United States, Dan's grandmother quickly got a job as a high school math teacher. Jorge continued work as an engineer, finishing his career at Miami International Airport about five years before his death. Dolores worked until she was 70.
"They just loved working," said Dan, fluent in Spanish. "They're hard workers. I'm proud to be part of that family."
Dan has yet to see the country his grandparents called home for so long. "My grandma says I'm not allowed to until the Castro regime is fully done with," he said. And Dolores has yet to return, either. She has no desire to.
The past behind her, she's simply relishing a growing family that includes seven grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren, including Dan's daughter, Kinsley. She'll travel to New York, where her daughter lives, in June to see the A's play. They'll also be in her backyard later that month for a three-game road set with the Marlins. "We're very lucky, I tell you," she said. (5/9/14)
Otero is affable and grounded. Having a baby girl at home can do that.
"I remember, we were on a flight back from Detroit," Dan says. "It was a pretty tough series, and we were all kind of down. Then I got an email from my wife on the plane, and it was a video of our girl, Kinsley, walking on her own for the first time. I was so proud. I got home, put my suitcase down, and she walked right up to me.
"You can't explain that," Otero continued. "No matter how you do on the field, when you come home to that, it's amazing. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it."
Otero says that some of the oldest photos of him show him wearing a catcher's mask and holding a bat.
"Ever since I was really young, I'd always have my mom and dad throw me a ball, but it'd always hit me in the fact," Dad says. "That's how I thought you caught the ball. So for my second birthday, they got me a catcher's mask, and that's how we'd play catch."
Otero eventually figured it out and graduated to hitting tennis blls out of his backyard and watching his idols, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, pitch for the Braves on TV.
In the clubhouse before most any game, you will find Otero hunched at a table, poring over is second or third crossword of the day.
"He's probably the smartest guy in the bullpen," A's teammate Sean Doolittle said during the 2014 season. "He does (a crossword) in like five minutes."
Dan says the hobby started in 2009, after he was sidelined with Tommy John surgery. With nothing else to do to pass the long hours in the trainer's room, he'd pick up the paper and try a crossword.
"It's part of my daily routine," he says. "I usually do the New York Times' one, and then sometimes I'll do the LA Times' and USA Today's. I still haven't gotten the Sunday Times one down, though."
- June 2007: The Giants chose Otero in the 21st round, out of the University of South Florida.
- March 26, 2013: The Yankees claimed Otero off waivers from the Giants.
- March 29, 2013: The A's claimed Daniel off waivers from the Yankees.
- November 3, 2015: The Phillies claimed Otero off waivers from the A's.
- December 18, 2015: The Phillies traded Otero to the Indians for cash.
- January 13, 2017: Dan and the Indians avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one year $1.055 contract.