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Many Latin American children dream about playing baseball in the Major Leagues. One reason for this is because to them playing in the Major Leagues is a way out of their current situation. There is poverty in many Latin American countries. Many children dream of being rich and famous like their Latin American heroes.
Their heroes include Sammy Sosa. Sammy Sosa, because his homerun race with Mark Maguire has become a household name. To many Latinos he represents the opportunity to succeed. He has opened doors for many Latinos to play in the Major Leagues.
Many Latinos have taken advantage of this opportunity. Latinos now make up almost thirty percent of Major League Baseball players. There are currently almost two hundred Latino baseball players in the Major Leagues. Many of these Latino baseball players have experienced much success.
Juan Gonzalez was the 1998 American League MVP. Sammy Sosa won the 1998 National League MVP award. Bernie Williams was the 1998 American League batting champion. Ivan Rodriguez won the 1998 America League MVP award. Pedro Martinez was the 1999 Cy Young Award winner. Rafael Palmiero won the American League Gold Glove Award in 1999. These are just a few of the outstanding Latino baseball players currently in Major League Baseball.
The highest paid baseball player in Major League Baseball history is a Latino. Alex Rodriguez signed a seven-year contract for two hundred and fifty-six million dollars in 2000. This not only made him the richest baseball player ever, but also the richest Latin American athlete in history. The signing of Alex Rodriguez proved that Latin American athletes deserved to sign big money contracts just like the other players.
Teams are taking are taking advantage of the abundance of talent in Latin America. All major League teams are active in the Dominican Republic. The Dodgers, the first team to move into the Latin American market, scout the area’s talent closely. About one hundred and four of the two hundred and thirty-seven minor-leaguers they had under contract at the start of the year were from that region.
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It’s not the facilities but the twelve-month-long summers that help produce these aspiring players. They are fortunate enough to have a great baseball climate year round. This is an advantage that American players do not have. Though the Dominican Republic has the greatest number of professional baseball players with almost eighty; there are many players from other Latin American countries. There are almost 40 players from Puerto Rico, over thirty players from Venezuela, fourteen from Mexico, over twenty from Cuba, ten from Panama, five from Columbia, and other five from Nicaragua. This accounts for a total of about two hundred players in the Major Leagues. This number is constantly growing.
While Latino baseball players are exploding in the Major Leagues, the number of Latinos in coaching and front office positions is scarce. The late Montreal Expo’s manager Felipe Alou, who was born in Haina, Dominican Republic, said he didn’t foresee a wave of Latinos moving into positions of authority, mainly because of racism. “The numbers of Latino players will continue to mount” he said, “but I don’t believe that managers will.” Increasing the amount of Latinos in the management positions while ensuring a fair shot at it will be a tough challenge for Latinos in baseball.
Besides this fact, things seem to be looking up for Latinos in baseball in the future. As fans continue to migrate to other professional sports, major league baseball is encouraged by the demographic shift. According to census figures the Latino population in the United States is estimated to grow by seventy-three percent to forty million by 2010. Some teams are already tapping into the surging Latino buying power. The Florida Marlins’ first appearance was acknowledged with the release of the first-ever Hispanic commemorative baseball coin. The San Diego Padres bus their fans from Tijuana, Mexico for a bargain price of eleven dollars, which includes tickets to the ballgame.
Latinos have found their niche in Major League baseball. They have prospered and succeeded in what many considered a “white” sport. Their success in baseball can be compared to the success of African Americans in the sport of basketball. Basketball was once considered a “white” sport. Minorities through history have been able to achieve social acceptably in sports.
I enjoyed writing this paper because I learn a lot of facts about baseball and Latin American athletes. I think people from all countries should have the opportunity to succeed in America. I’m not much of a baseball fan, so writing this paper was a learning experience for me. I think the Latin American athletes should be applauded for the success they have achieved so far away from their homeland. They seized an opportunity and made the best of it. While doing so, they might have changed the game of baseball.
Cockcroft, James.Latinos in Beisbol (Hispanic Experience in America). Franklin Watts Publishing: New York, 1996
Morey, Janet.Famous Hispanic Americans.Cobblehill Books Publishing: New York, 1996
Winter, John.Beisbol! : Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends. Lee and Low Publishing: Boston, 2001