Many years ago I learned that “you don’t need elephants to have a circus.” That statement could not have been more appropriate for yesterday’s LatinoMVP event.
The event scheduled for a 12:30 PM start was to honor both, Mr. Robinson Canó for his 2011 Latino MVP Award and MLB executive, Lou Meléndez who will retire at the end of this year. Mr. Meléndez had decided to make this his 29th year at Major League Baseball his last.
The heat, the full to capacity parking lot and the house sound system that for some reason would not work on this day could not be as bad as the news we received one hour before the big event. The news came from Cano’s publicist, Ms. Sonia Cruz who called to inform us that Robbie had a death of a very close friend, almost family member and that he was reminded that he was scheduled to attend the wake almost at the same time as our event.
Under all other circumstances major panic would have set in, however, after 23 years coordinating these awards we have been through it all. However, we never had a situation in 23 years where the main attraction, the player did not show. Experience and wisdom has shown us that “everything happens for a purpose,” thus you make the best of the situation, you move on.
Move on we did and the awards presentation continued to the great success and surprise of all. We asked Cano’s representative to come and explain the circumstances. Let’s face it. If anyone of us had to choose between a close friends funeral and an award presentation, I would say “no contest’, love my award, but love my friend more.
The event began with actor, Luis Antonio Ramos as the Master of Ceremony. Mr. Ramos is a Puerto Rican New Yorker who has been in a number of movies and has been a strong supporter of Latino Sports. Mr. Ramos entertained the crowd with funny anecdotes of his personal experiences growing up in New York and his trips to Yankee stadium.
He then introduced, Reverend Simpson who did the invocation. The award for Lou Meléndez immediately followed, as he now became the major honoree.
I introduced my good friend and Borough President, Ruben Díaz Jr. who welcomed everyone to the Bronx and read a proclamation in honor of Mr. Meléndez stating, “on behalf of the 1.4 million residents of the Bronx where more than half are Latino,” he proclaimed Lou Meléndez day in the borough.
Latino Sports contributing artist, Mr. John Pinisi presented Mr. Meléndez with a very nice portrait wearing a baseball jersey with the Dominican flag in the back round. Mr. Meléndez is Puerto Rican, but he was very instrumental in helping to improve the status of many of the baseball academies in the Dominican Republic of which players like Canó have emerged.
The accolades continued for the highest ranking Latino in MLB with Mr. Ray Negrón, author of many children’s books and the soon to be released book, Yankee Miracle on his experiences with George Steinbrenner. I explained that Ray went from being the first Latino bat boy in Yankee stadium to Yankee executive, therefore, his book, would be a must read for all Yankee and non-Yankee fans alike.
Ray praised Latino Sports for our work and spoke about the importance of having events like the awards luncheon where we can honor Latino baseball players and people outside like Mr. Meléndez.
Ray continued explaining the key role that Mr. Meléndez had played throughout the 20 years that he has known him. He gave details on how instrumental Mr. Meléndez was in helping to give both, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry second chances after they each had a fall out with drugs. Both, the League and the Players Association did not want them back, but thanks to the support of Mr. Meléndez both men did return and made great contributions to the game.
Mr. Meléndez was honored to have been showered by so many awards and spoke about the his experiences growing up in El Barrio to working in the nearby Bronx courthouse prior to going to Law School to his present position in MLB. He explained that though he is grateful for much of the development that he has seen regarding the Latino community that there is still much more to do. He urged the approximate 100 guests present to continue to support the good work of Latino Sports. He also pledged that though he is retiring that he will still be involved and committed himself to collaborating with Latino Sports on relevant issues.
The next award was for our main, but missing honoree. There is a saying in the entertainment industry, “the show must go on” and on it did. We informed the guests that we had good news and bad news and that Ms. Sonia Cruz; publicist for Canó would explained the details.
Ms. Cruz explained that Canó had a very close friendship with a family friend that was a victim of cancer. Canó had recently visited her in the hospital and thought she was not doing well and urged his mother and other friends to visit her. His friend, Ingrid passed on Friday. Ms. Cruz explained that today was the special funeral services and that Canó unfortunately did not realize that he had both items on the same day. Ms. Cruz apologized on his behalf and stated that Canó would like to invite all the children and youth that were present to be his guest at the stadium during batting practice on a soon to be selected day. He also promised to send everyone an autograph picture. The audience was supportive and appreciated of the overtures from Mr. Canó.
We then called up James Fiorentino, the rising star painter who is responsible for all the LatinoMVP awards. James presented Ms. Cruz with the award. Mr. Pinisi also presented a sketch of Canó and his father. Ms. Cruz and the guests, both appreciated both art pieces.
The event ended with a series of raffles of Canó pictures, a Latino Sports mug filled with Clemente collectibles and two-autographed posters of Mr. Canó and of the National League LatinoMVP, Albert Pujols.
Everyone left content with having experienced another successful LatinoMVP event full of Love, Pride & Goodwill even though this one did not have the honoree, but in the end it really did not matter.