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Latino Baseball Players Talk About The Culture Clash They Experience Playing For MLB

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but the sport now has deep roots in several Latin American countries. Latinos have always been part of baseball, but there’s been a noticeable surge of Latino players in recent years. This season alone broke records: according to the Major League Baseball, 29.8% of players were born outside the 50 states, and the majority of them are Latinos. The Dominican Republic has more players in MLB more than any other country, leading with 93 players. Venezuela is second with 77 players and Cuba is third with 23 players. Aside from the baseball culture change, there’s also room for growth when it comes to understanding Latinos. In fact, sports media and others within the industry have started to learn Spanish in order to fully grasp the identity of the players and be sensitive towards their needs.

ESPN did something pretty awesome to cover this cultural shift. The network profiled 50 Latino MLB players and asked them their thoughts on a variety of topics about their lives on and off the field. It’s astonishing that they can be so focused on their job while balancing their new lives in the United States.

Here are some highlights from the ESPN feature story, but make sure to check out the full piece on ESPN.com.

Carlos González of the Colorado Rockies talked about the flair Latinos bring to baseball:

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“Maybe for guys from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, there’s a larger difference because they put more flair into the way they play, and they come to the United States and people don’t really like that. You see a lot of issues with guys like [Yoenis] Céspedes or [Yasiel] Puig, when they’re celebrating. However, that’s the only way they know, and I get it. Everyone comes from different situations, so you have to be open-minded. You’ve got to understand why they do that kind of stuff. You can’t just judge people because of the way they play.”

Brayan Peña of the Kansas City Royals talked about balancing his family life:

“I defected when I was 16. Here, if you play hard and you do the right thing, you have an opportunity to show your talent. In Cuba, if you play hard and you do the right thing, you’re not going anywhere. If the Cuban government doesn’t like the way you act or the way you think, it doesn’t matter how much talent you have. That’s why a lot of us made those tough decisions to defect and leave our friends and families behind. We want to follow a dream. America gives us that dream.”

Carlos Gómez of the Texas Rangers revealed how much he misses his family:

Mis cachorro son loco con su Papiii los amos ❤️ mi fuerza ??YYY??CGGCYYY❤️??????????????

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“It’s tough to have the life of a baseball player. I feel lonely without [my family]. Previously, my oldest son started the school year in the States and ended it in the Dominican. I didn’t want to do it that way this year since he would have to separate himself from his teachers and friends. I don’t think it’s healthy for him. So I better sacrifice myself so they can be normal kids.”

Óliver Pérez of the Washington Nationals talked about the language barrier:

#OliverPerez es entrevistado en el día previo al inicio de la #SerieDelCaribe foto:Luis Gutierrez /NortePhoto.com

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“When I came here at 17, I didn’t even know how to say ‘No. 1.’ It was hard to go get something to eat, to understand play instructions. I listened to English all day long without actually understanding it. But there’s no language on the field. It’s just baseball, and that’s something you understand.”

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers talked about identity and politics:

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“[Immigration] is an important topic that’s talked about in the clubhouses, in homes, in the streets. I hope that, like all politicians who never go through with what they say on their campaign, [President Donald Trump] doesn’t go through with it [his threats to deport undocumented immigrants]. I feel the fears of a lot of people. That does affect me, not what one person says, but what so many suffer, especially if they are Latinos.”

Carlos Santana of the Cleveland Indians talked about what he did with one of his first bonus checks:

Siempre está en mi corazón mami I love you mami ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by carlos santana (@slamtana_41) on

“If you look at all players, especially Dominicans, when they get to the MLB and they get a good bonus, the first thing they do is secure a house for their moms. We Dominicans believe in this. Mom ate bones; now she has to eat dough.”

Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners explained how Latino players dealt with being away from home cooking:

RepostBy @davilajr31: "Vamos todos a votar por @encadwin para el all star game 2017 en Miami #vota #10 #edwinencarnacion @adonnys13 @hector_borg @kjjean @amauryjrelksabe @poopo05 @richardenca @miriamrivera07 @estef_dolcevita @jcapois @evelinencar @robert8679 @felipedelrosario1 @felipelopez_official @vennyjas @jerryc172 @garcir @manny_soto27 @manny0213_ @poloybaseball @elischocolate @deaza0505 @robertsfadebarbershop @guichi82 @juanycarabonita_04 @llserg1978 @papitin13 @jenfavila @carol23b @oriana0724 @naw_29 @glenfas @elcoco39 @softballchata @framycr @franco0509 #https://www.mlb.com/all-star/ballot?tcid=ASG17_mlb_newstory https://www.mlb.com/all-star/ballot?tcid=ASG17_mlb_newstory https://www.mlbstatic.com/mlb. At MLB.com" (via #InstaRepost @EasyRepost) https://www.mlb.com/all-star/ballot #softballchata

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“On road trips, teams gave us meal money, which was like $20. To help each other, let’s say we were six or eight Latinos, we collected our money and we bought groceries collectively. We got chicken and rice. We had an electric skillet for rice, and we had a pan for the meat. It was forbidden to cook inside the hotel, so we had to avoid having the smoke from our cooking get to the smoke detectors. We cooked in there and we saved ourselves a ton of money. If each of us contributed $20, we did a good grocery shopping trip and it lasted for the four to eight days of the road trip.”

There’s so much more insight in ESPN’s piece, so make sure you check it out.

READ: This Is Why I Don’t See Baseball As A “White Sport” Anymore

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Bad Bunny And Marc Anthony Will Rebuild Baseball Parks In Puerto Rico Destroyed By Hurricane María

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Bad Bunny And Marc Anthony Will Rebuild Baseball Parks In Puerto Rico Destroyed By Hurricane María

badbunnypr / marcanthony / Instagram

While it’s been two years since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the recovery efforts aren’t finishing anytime soon. Many people on the island are still trying to put their lives back together, which includes rebuilding homes, churches, and schools. What many might not know is the recovery efforts have also included revitalizing baseball fields on the island where Puerto Ricans once played. 

Among the destruction that both Hurricanes Irma and Maria left in 2017 is more than 300 small league baseball parks that were found inoperative. As a result, many community ball programs were essentially eliminated and youths on the island were essentially left in the dark without fields to play the sport.

Leading the revitalization efforts are Puerto Rico’s own two native sons: Bad Bunny and Marc Anthony. The duo, along with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a U.S. community development non-profit, has teamed up for a new program called Play Ball Again. The purpose of the initiative will be to help rebuild some of those damaged baseball fields and facilitate local programming for 17,500 youth. It is expected that in total, about 300 facilities will be impacted by this initiative. 

The duo hopes the contributions play a huge role in bringing not only baseball back to the island but a place where people can escape from their worries. 

Credit: @laguerradelbsn / Twitter

The initiative is special to both of them not only because they’re helping youth but they hoping these recovery efforts go a long way in bringing back a sense of community. Maestro Cares Foundation, which Anthony owns, is putting money towards the program with a goal of restoring “normalcy” in Puerto Rico.

“Sports and recreation activities help restore a sense of normalcy, in the wake of disasters,” Anthony, who is among the program’s earliest supporters, said in a press release.” Baseball isn’t just a game in this context. It helps young people do better in school and improves family life and health in difficult circumstances.”

Maestro Cares, along with the Good Bunny Foundation and UNICEF USA, will all be putting forth $300,000 of what LISC expects to be more than $1.6 million in baseball field renovations. Joining the efforts is Chicago Cubs second baseman Javi Baez with his Cubs Charities, which will donate an additional $100,000 in support. This also includes the Kohler Company, which made a donation to fund bathroom fixtures for onsite facilities.

“Two years after these devastating storms, the need to rebuild the island remains strong,” Báez, whose family is from the Bayamón area, said in a press release. “Cubs Charities understood the need and has stepped up to the plate to help restore baseball fields and give kids throughout Puerto Rico the opportunity to play the game. This rebuild will make a big difference for the community, and I am proud to continue my efforts to restore the island.”

The recovery efforts in Puerto Rico have been long and tiresome but the fuel behind the revitalization has always been the people. 

 Credit: UNICEF / MAESTRO CARES

While time may have passed, many on the island of Puerto Rico are still trying to get back on their feet. For Bad Bunny, he knows firsthand the power that activities like baseball have on youth. Growing up, baseball was part of his life and much of his time was spent at many of the ballparks that were destroyed in 2017. 

“Growing up on the island I spent a lot of time in some of these parks that are now destroyed,” says Bad Bunny, whose Good Bunny Foundation is part of the initiative. “In parks similar to these, a lot of great athletes like Roberto Clemente, Yadier Molina, Roberto Alomar, Edgar Martinez, and Ivan Rodriguez grew up. Our commitment is to rebuild these parks so that we can help new athletes grow. This is the first step for the rebirth of sports within the island.”

The rebirth of Puerto Rico is taking time but in that process, there is a sense that an even stronger community will come out of this disaster. While simple things like baseball may not seem significant, it’s a part of the fabric of Puerto Rico and displays the love that is shared playing on a field. This rebirth has already started as construction on the baseball field is underway and most field renovations are set for completion by the 2020 season.

READ: The Death of Four-Year-Old Noah Cuatro Has Rocked the Los Angeles Community As They Come to Grips With the Failure of Child Protective Services

From Serving Tacos To Being Signed With The LA Dodgers, Here’s What We Know Of The LA Dodger’s New Pitcher

Entertainment

From Serving Tacos To Being Signed With The LA Dodgers, Here’s What We Know Of The LA Dodger’s New Pitcher

In the history of major league baseball, there have been dozens upon dozens of players that were born in Mexico. It’s no secret that major league baseball is home to many Latino players, but when they’re from Mexico and play for the Los Angeles Dodgers it’s even more special. Now, there’s a new member of the Dodger family — a young man with a dream to play in the major leagues. 

The L.A. Dodgers signed an 18-year-old left-handed pitcher, with a 93-mph fastball, from Jalisco, Mexico.

Credit: Primer Impacto / YouTube

Octavio Becerra, from Capilla de Guadalupe, Jalisco, was formerly a player for the Mexican team Aguascalientes Rieleros, when a scout, Juvenal Soto, saw him play. In an interview with Primer Impacto, Becerra recalls the day that a Soto saw him play in Mexico. He said he was pitching like normal. He said the two were talking and then Soto asked him about his pitching technique. The scout then said, “I’ll be back soon with some news.” Soto wasn’t kidding. An hour and a half later, he returned to tell him that he was signed to play for the Dodgers. 

Back home in Jalisco, when Becerra wasn’t playing for his local baseball team, he was working at a taco restaurant. 

Credit: Primer Impacto / YouTube

Becerra stayed busy as a waiter, a cook, and a delivery guy at a taco eatery in his home state. His boss playfully said that if he doesn’t make it in the major leagues he can always work as a waiter at Taco Bell. All joking aside, his boss told Primer Impacto that he wished the best for the young man. 

As a new player for the Dodgers, Becerra’s contract requires a start in the minor leagues. Dodgers Nation said he is the “most highly-touted prospect.”

Credit: rielerosags / Instagram

According to the Dodgers Nation, “Becerra has thrown just 18 1/3 innings for the Aguascalientes of the Mexican League across two seasons, posting a 9.82 ERA and 2.40 WHIP. Take these stats with a grain of salt considering Becerra is playing in a league where the average age is 29.6 years old at just 18.” They add, “He was ranked as the #1 prospect in La Liga Mexicana de Beisból coming into the 2019 season. That is a high-profile signing considering his potential and experience in one of the world’s premier leagues outside of the United States.”

His mom got emotional when recalling all of the hard work he has put into his passion, and all of the support she has given him over the years.

Credit: Primer Impacto / YouTube

His mom told Primer Impacto that ever since Becerra was a little boy he always had a plastic bat and helmet and practice playing. He has played baseball his entire life. She said parents must always support their children whatever their passion is. She said that by supporting their children in anything they do, that is the only way they can ever achieve success.

She’s not the only one that is proud of his success. His home team in Jalisco is thrilled for the young player. 

Credit: RielerosDeAguascalientes / Facebook

“We are very proud to be able to present Octavio’s signature today with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which as we know is an organization that has always trusted the Mexican baseball player, we wish the greatest success for Octavio, because we know that today It is the first step to achieve the dream of reaching the majors, he is a player with discipline and a lot of work, so we are sure he will have a career full of successes,” the President of the Club Rieleros, José Eustacio Álvarez said. 

Becerra said signing the contract came with many emotions. He said it was a moment he always dreamed about but wasn’t sure it would come true. 

Credit: Primer Impacto / YouTube

“I am very happy and very proud of what is happening; Suddenly one feels sad because if you are in the first team you suddenly return to the Academy,” he said according to the Aguascalientes Rieleros Facebook page. “But I feared it with a great philosophy and I decided that I would do my best, I started working hard because I knew that some team of Big League could look at me; then it came out that I was the prospect 1 of the entire League and it was an extra motivation to achieve the goal, which fortunately today is met, with this signature with the Los Angeles Dodgers.” 

Well, we couldn’t more excited to have a Mexican player on the team. Congrats, Octavio!

Watch his interview below.

READ: Dodgers Star Pitcher, Julio Urias, Spent The Night In Jail After Shoving A Woman To The Ground And People Are Disgusted