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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

The influence of Latino Baseball Players

By: Gabriel León 🇻🇪


Image credit: Andrew Harnik/AP


Baseball has always been “America’s Pastime.” Baseball has been a massive part of American culture for over a century. The formation of the MLB (Major League Baseball) in 1903 makes it one of the oldest professional sports leagues in the world. 


Until the 1940s, baseball was a White-man’s game. Jackie Robinson and Lou Castro (Colombian) were the first African-American and Latino baseball players, both making their debuts in the 1940s. 


These two men would pave the way for minorities to make a name for themselves in America's name. Ever since the 1940s, Latinos have not looked back, and their influence has been incredible. 


Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, and Juan Marichal were all crucial in opening the door for the explosion of Latino baseball players that was seen in the early 2000s which has only grown since then. Looking back over the past decade, the impact of Latino baseball players on the game has been incredible.

 

25% of the Most Valuable Players in the past 10 seasons have been Latinos. The Most Valuable player is given to the best player of the American League and National League. Both leagues consist of 15 teams and put together make up the MLB that encompasses 30 teams all across the nation. 


These 15 teams each have a roster of 40 players, meaning that a Latino baseball player was the best out of 600 on five separate occasions. More evidence of Latino talent in the MLB is evident in the past winners of the Rookie of the Year award. This award follows the same system as the Most Valuable Player, being awarded to the best rookie of both leagues. 


These rookies of the year are voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the top journalists in the game of baseball. These are the same journalists who selected the Most Valuable Player. Of the past 20 rookies of the year, seven have been Latinos, a staggering 35%


José Abreu (Cuban) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (Venezuelan) are two players that have won both Rookie of the Year and went on to be the Most Valuable Player later in their careers. The All-Star team is composed of two teams of 40 players from both leagues, meaning that 80 players in total are selected to be All-Stars. 


Of the 80 that were selected, 29 of them were Latino, 36% of the best players in the MLB come from either Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, or the Dominican Republic. Being among the best of the best has allowed these trailblazers to showcase their Latino flair on the biggest stages in baseball. 


This Latino flair has been something that inspires the younger generations of not just the countries that these players come from but also young American baseball players. A problem that baseball has seen is that kids find it boring. However, these Latino players have made the game fun again. 


Players like Randy Arozarena (Cuban/Mexican), Ronald Acuña Jr., and Julio Rodriguez (Dominican) have brought the game to life in ways never seen before. Their uniforms include vibrant batting gloves, flashy sunglasses and most importantly massive chains that flaunt their numbers, logos or have religious significance. 


Many of these players play with the first button of the jersey undone, which is seen as unprofessional by some but is mimicked by kids playing in Little Leagues all around the country. This is not the only thing that little league, high school or college players mimic from these Latino stars. The bat flips after hitting a homerun were largely popularized by Latino baseball players with Dominican José Bautista in 2015 being the first to really get the bat flips going. 


Walk-up songs are also an incredibly important part of Latino players' influence on up-and-coming players. Players are allowed to play a snippet of a song when walking up to the batter’s box. Many players choose songs by artists like Bad Bunny or Daddy Yankee. 

Young players of any racial/ethnic background have chosen the same songs as their Latino inspirations, even if they do not speak Spanish! This impact on young baseball players has been immense and led to a movement that has made America's game much more enjoyable for its players and fans. 


Aside from the Latino flair and being scarily good at the game, Latino players influence players in another perhaps more meaningful way. Latino players also represent a unification amongst African-American and Latino players that has been a special bond for many MLB players. Tim Anderson, an African-American player for the Chicago White Sox, said to the New York Times “They’re (Latino players) like the same as Black people. We’re talking about the same culture. We get along well. The only thing is they just speak Spanish.” Both African-American and Latino baseball players have paved the way for minority baseball players to get to the major leagues and make their people so proud. 


Image Credit: (AP Photo/John Froschauer)


The 2024 baseball season will be underway with opening day on March 28th. Latino baseball players will continue to shine in the game this year and for many years to come. The numbers speak for themselves, but what is more important is the passion and life Latino players have brought back to the game. The influence of Latino players on young baseball players and the game of baseball itself cannot be understated and it is one that will only continue to grow in the years to come.

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