Play ball! A legacy that still resonates with Hispanics

While opening day for Major League Baseball is still two months away, my oldest son, age 9, is already gearing up for his 2011 baseball season that starts in less than 3 weeks. During a recent family outing, he asked me if I knew Roberto Clemente.

Nearly 4 decades ago, Roberto Clemente’s plane crashed while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. It is said Clemente was a better man than a baseball player.  In death, this Puerto Rican super star emerged as a symbol of hope and goodwill among Hispanics across the U.S.

The 2010 census will once again demonstrate Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the country representing nearly 16% of the total U.S. population. Their impact is felt across businesses, schools, music, entertainment, foods, etc.  In Major League Baseball, Hispanics account for about 30% of all players and comprise many of the game’s highest-paid and most-celebrated superstars – Jorge PosadaAlex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols to name a few. They tend to be represented at the All-Star Game in even greater percentages.

According to Scarborough Research Multimarket Study, 14% of Hispanics said they were “very” interested in Major League Baseball. This number seems large but it is relatively small when compared to the interest level in Major League Soccer (MLS).  43% of Hispanics said they were “very” interested in MLS, followed by 18% “very” interested in the National Basketball Association, 11% in the National Football League and 9% in the National Hockey League.

Even though soccer is king among Hispanics, baseball, arguably, has the most passionate fan base of any sports. I think so.

 I was very impressed with my son’s ability to share a few noteworthy facts about Clemente. For this upcoming season, he wants to wear #21 which happens to be Clemente’s baseball uniform # while playing for the Pirates. Here are a few of the facts my son shared with me which I will now share with you:

1)     Clemente was a 12 time All-Star

2)     Won four National League batting titles

3)     Only the 11th player to reach 3,000 career hits

4)     He was 38 when his plane crashed

5)     First Latin American-born player elected into the Hall of Fame

Growing up, I had a few favorite baseball players who happened to be Hispanic. My all-time favorite was Fernando Valenzuela. He pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and touched off an early ‘80s craze called “Fernandomania.”  He was the only player in Major League history to win the Rookie of the Year award, the Cy Young Award, the Silver Slugger Award and a World Series championship in the same season.

Who were your favorite Hispanic baseball players while growing up?

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