Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Wednesday's HOPE Week Honoree: The Great Olmedini

The Great Olmedini. Photo by Jason Schott.

On Wednesday morning, Yankees pitchers James Paxton, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Nestor Cortes Jr. and David Hale surprised HOPE Week honoree The Great Olmedini at his East Harlem apartment, then helped him perform magic tricks for NYC subway passengers on a 4-train bound for Yankee Stadium.

The Great Olmedini and Yankees players ready to board the subway to The Stadium. Provided by New York Yankees.

The Great Olemdini then entertained a kindergarten class from P.S. 73 in the Bronx in the Plymouth Rock Kids’ Clubhouse. He was presented with associate membership into the Society of American Magicians.

The Great Olmedini entertaining the kids from P.S. 73. Provided by New York Yankees.

The Yankees made a donation in the name of Olmedo Rentería to the Society of American Magicians’ Magic Endowment Fund, a charitable foundation dedicated to the advancement of the art of magic and benefitting Society of Young Magicians programming.

The Great Olmedini during his act. Photo by Jason Schott.

Get To Know "The Great Olmedini" Olmedo Renteria:

One does not need to see to believe.
Olmedo Rentería has been performing his magic routine throughout the New York City subways for three decades. Dressed in one of his trademark ornate tuxedos, the blind magician hops from train to train with his assistant by his side, a rabbit in his hat and who-knows-what up his sleeve, entertaining travelers in both Spanish and English.
NYT-9“The Great Olmedini” was born 78 years ago in the South American nation of Ecuador. There, in what must seem like another life entirely, he rose from poverty to fame, becoming a self-made star. He appeared on television, he was invited to judge beauty pageants, he opened for world-famous musical acts. He did it all. After accomplishing all of his goals back home, Olmedini set out with aspirations for something more and relocated to New York City, where he has practiced his craft for the last 30 years.
Though a stroke cruelly robbed him of his vision 10 years ago, Rentería still ventures out three days a week to perform for wide-eyed tourists and commuting New Yorkers alike.
He opens up his bag of tricks and performs with the expert sleight of hand of a 50-year veteran, frequently starting his act with his own vocal rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
“He is such a romantic, old-fashioned figure,” said Guatemalan photographer Jaime Permuth, who met Olmedini 20 years ago and recently shadowed him for a photo gallery. “When I look at him, I think of Don Quixote. Even though he is 78 years old, he still believes he can make it in New York City.”
For Ecuadorians and others who knew him back home, encountering The Great Olmedini in New York provides a special moment – a nostalgic link to their homeland and their childhood.
Much like the doves he conjures out of thin air, or the rabbits that disappear on cue, the elusive Olmedini appears without warning. One only happens upon him by chance – sitting down in the right subway car, changing trains in the right station.
However, on Saturdays, he is much easier to track down. He can be found at the Ecuadorian Consulate in Queens, where he attends weekly classes to improve his English. Then, he returns to his apartment inside a housing complex for the disabled in East Harlem, where he strums his guitar and prepares his props for next week’s routine.
He believes in his magic, and he hopes his audience does too. That passion and an unrelenting desire to entertain, no matter the disadvantage, should inspire every one of us to continue chasing our dreams, regardless of what we might perceive as obstacles.
If The Great Olmedini can believe without seeing, why shouldn’t we?

Provided by New York Yankees.

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