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Born and raised in La Vega, Dominican Republic, where playing baseball and swimming were the only two activities, Joel started swimming when he was nine years old. Living five mins away from a river, swimming became his pastime when he was not playing baseball, of course. While playing for the Philadelphia Phillies minor league school, his trainer asked him to swim more to become a faster player. The swimming paid off, and at 16 years old Joel came to New York and right away found employment as a lifeguard where he quickly stood out for his abilities as was named "Lifeguard of the Year" at Aquatics Recreational Management Inc. not just once, but twice. Joel joined the Imagine Swimming family first as a lifeguard but grew in to also helping on deck as a Pool Attendant and in the water as a teacher. Joel is the father of two little girls, Jarlene and Kathleen.