I have met more and more Latino fans that tell me that they don’t particularly have a “favorite” baseball team. They might care to watch more of their home team games simply because of their location and a particular player, or players.
I also found this to be true more with the younger generation. Last year I volunteered to teach an after school sports careers class in a local high school. I remember that when I asked students the question, “what is your favorite team,” there were more than a few that stated they had no favorite team, but favorite “Latino players.”
I can relate to that because I remember in 1989 I was an avid Yankee fan. There was no ESPN, or Internet, so I was fixated on our local teams, for me that meant the NY Yankees.
In January of 1990 I was vacationing in Puerto Rico and heard about a young Texas Ranger player, Ruben Sierra from the island who had just been overlooked for the American League MVP award. That created an uproar on the island and being an activist I heard many of the heated debates on what many felt was at best an oversight to those that felt it was pure discrimination based on the fact that Sierra was a black Puerto Rican who spoke no English.
It was that experience that got me to begin to actually pay attention to another player that was not a Yankee, or New York player. For the first time I saw beyond the foul lines in baseball and into the community that I was a part of, but being from New York did not feel. The island Puerto Ricans made a South Bronx raised Boricua feel their concerns. When I looked at Sierra’s statistics, no doubt that he was overlooked. Thus this got my activist blood boiling and I wound up organizing an awards event in Yankee stadium, the rest was history, the birth of Latino Sports and the LatinoMVP awards.
However, It also made me begin to appreciate a player from another team and every time Ruben Sierra visited Yankee stadium, I felt something that I had never felt before. I did not want him to strike out. I wanted him to get a hit, a home run, smack the hell out of the ball. It was a strange feeling, I wanted the Yankees to win, but I wanted Ruben to do well. If he did, I felt proud as a Puerto Rican, if the Yankees won I felt good as a Yankee fan.
Today, almost twenty-five years later I understand this phenomenon of Latino fans that follow players and not necessarily a team.
So on that note as we watch the upcoming World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals I can imagine Latino fans all over the country rooting for Big Papi, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina even though they are not Red Sox, or Cardinal fans.
What do you think?