10/02/2015 | WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Willie Tandron watches his father, Hugo "Juice" Tandron, cutting the Luis Portado's hair at Headz Up barber shop in Miami Lakes, Fla. Hugo is the official barber of the Miami Marlins. (Photo: Rodolfo Roman/Fox News Latino)
Carol City, a section of Miami Gardens in South Florida, is a neighborhood that’s usually characterized as being rough.
That's why Hugo "Juice" Tandron, who grew up there, was shocked to see Major League Baseball player Gary Sheffield step into his house in 1993.
Tandron is a barber who, at the time, cut hair in the utility room of his home.
Sheffield, who had been traded to the Marlins in late June, “wanted a new barber because they kept messing his hair up at the flea market,” Tandron told Fox News Latino recently.
But, he said, “Sheffield was reluctant at first because of where I cut hair.”
The outfielder’s choice proved fateful for Tandron.
Twenty-two years later, the tattooed, long-bearded 45-year-old is the official barber of the Miami Marlins and the only individual to hold such a position with a major league team.
He has a makeshift barbershop at the team's ballpark, Marlins Park, where team stars like Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon wait to get a cut before a game.
He is also the owner of Headz Up barber shop in Miami Lakes, just a few minutes away from where he grew up. His wife of more than 20 years, Jackie, helps run the shop and his son Willie, 26, also cuts hair.
This is a place where Marlins' games are always on television.
Tandron’s longtime friend, Luis Portado, says that it’s the barber’s character that has led him to success.
“He relates to these people,” Portado said. “He cuts good hair. To get your foot in the door is not easy.”
Before cutting the hair of Hall of Famers like Ricky Henderson and Reggie Jackson, Tandron, born to Cuban parents, met many challenges.
"I didn’t think I would have been alive at this age, to tell you the truth," he told FNL.
Tandron said his role models when growing up were the “older dudes” who had luxurious cars.
"That’s what I looked up to as a role model – instead of looking at my dad who was working two jobs busting his butt. It almost cost me my life," he says now.
Tandron got in trouble with the law a few times, even being charged with armed robbery once, although later the case was dismissed.
He had a come-to-Jesus moment when a man pointed a TEC-9 semi-automatic at his face during an argument outside a Miami nightclub. The gun jammed, and Tandron was able to run for his life.
After that, Jackie pushed him to become a barber. His mother, Zonia, a retired beautician, had clippers around the house, which he would experiment with.
"I started inventing," said Tandron, who has two children and three grandkids. "I started learning. I saw other guys cut in the neighborhood. It was the necessity. I would work at BrandsMart USA” – an electronics and appliance chain in the south. “I would finish at 6. I would have my clippers, and I would cut hair in the bathroom."
He would charge $4 or trade a cut for a beer or cigarettes.
But then Sheffield knocked on his door.
Right after that first haircut, the All-Star outfielder recommended Tancron to his teammates. During the team’s 1997 championship season, Tandron cut the hair of pretty much the entire team.
A year later, the Marlins’ front office asked if he could bring his equipment and cut hair in the clubhouse.
Willie watched his dad cut big leaguers’ hair and was inspired to play ball himself. Got as far as college before hanging up his cleats.
“He always put his family first,” Willie told FNL. “I’m proud of him.”
Today, Tandron cuts the hair of millionaires, and he serves not only as their barber, but also as a life coach, or a marriage counsel, or just as a sympathetic ear.
He is at Marlins Park for all 81 games during the season, and at times, the players will travel to Headz Up to get time in his barber chair.
Tandron says that one of his favorite clients is Miami Marlins President David Samson. “We talk Marlins, and how to improve the team,” he said, who says he has to pinch himself because he feels so fortunate.
His prices are the same for everyone, $20 – but tips are entirely the client’s decision.
In the offseason, he frequently gets flown all over the country to clip the hair of his major league clients, whom he refers to as his friends.
But no matter where his life and work take him, Tandron won’t forget his roots.
Among his many tattoos are two that claim much of his allegiance. On his leg, he has the Marlins’ logo, and on his forearm he has the words, “Carol City.”
Tandron said he is still in touch with many of the friends he made growing up, even the ones who are doing time.
“These are people as you would say that I did dirt with,” he said. “Back in the day, I made the right turn, but they kept going on that wrong path. Some are getting out. Some of them are dead. I am from … where you do or die.”