The 2017 Major League Baseball season began on April 2 with a record number of players born outside of the United States. According to data released by the league, there are 259 players on Opening Day rosters that were born outside of the country’s 50 states. That constitutes 29.8 percent of the 868 players in the league. The previous record was 29.2 percent in 2005.
Where are all these players from? Well, altogether there are 19 nations and territories represented. That’s also a record, beating the 18 represented in 1998 and 2016.
The top 5 spots for contributing countries and territories go to:
The Dominican Republic leads with 93 players.
Venezuela comes in second with 77 players.
Cuba is in third place with 23 players.
Puerto Rico takes fourth place with 16 players.
Mexico rounds out the top five with nine players.
Let’s hear it for all the Latinos in the MLB! ?
2017 Opening Day rosters feature a record 259 players born outside the U.S. (29.8%), spanning a record 19 countries & territories. pic.twitter.com/DCJ7D6YDpA
If a prize was being given out to the team with the most foreign-born players, it would go to the Texas Rangers who boast 14 players from six different countries and territories outside of the U.S. on their roster.
All this data leads one to believe that although baseball is as American as apple pie, its future is international.
In 2016, when 22-year-old Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno competed at the Olympic Games in Rio it wasn’t her impeccable skills as an athlete that many focused on. The Olympic competitor took on a feat that few have the chance to do by turning up to the Olympics and place in 31st place that the competition. But critics ignored her impressive skills on the uneven bars, the floor, vault, and beam and instead drilled into her for her body type. According to Today, one user on Twitter at the time wrote of her attendance at the Games saying “Alexa Moreno has the body of two gymnasts, a diet before going to Rio would have been good.”
Three years later, the now 25-year-old athlete has shrugged off nasty comments and is back in the Olympic games, haters be damned.
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.
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.
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.