What: Three September initiatives reflecting baseball’s growing Hispanic influence are Roberto Clemente Day, a new MLB Latin American trainer’s program and the extension of ‘Play Ball’ to Panama.
Why it matters: The Roberto Clemente Award is considered by many to be the game’s highest honor; highlighting and expanding the Latino influence in the game can be key opportunities from brands looking to connect.
September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month (@hispanicteam), a time when the influence of Latinos in the U.S.A. is highlighted. Dedicated time periods that highlight the heritage of African Americans, women and other groups are perfect opportunities for teams, brands and leagues to connect. The U.S. Latino population, now estimated at more than 58 million, continues to have an affinity for baseball.
Major League Baseball (@MLB), among a series of year-round initiatives that reflect its growing Latino player and fan bases, can point to three in particular as the postseason nears.
Each year, the league dedicates a single day in September as “Roberto Clemente Day,” the day teams announce their nominees for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, considered by most to be the league’s highest individual honor, greater even than an MVP or Cy Young. The award recognizes the members of all 30 teams who demonstrate the contributions and significance of the late Hall of Famer as a player and humanitarian, dating back nearly two decades. This year, it’s Wednesday, a day following the announcement of the 30 club nominees. Fan voting on the award commenced on Wednesday and continues through Sept. 18.
“I am very proud of the great philanthropic efforts of our players,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. “Through wide-ranging work and actions, these 30 nominees honor Roberto Clemente’s legacy of being exemplary community ambassadors. Roberto’s unwavering humanitarian spirit continues to inspire our players and fans and serves as a positive example for future generations.”
Two new efforts that didn’t receive as much attention but arguably can have an equally great impact on the game, long-term, are a partnership with Latin American trainers, beginning with pilot programs in baseball-mad Dominican Republic and Venezuela (which, not coincidentally provide MLB the most and second-most foreign-born players). According to the late August announcement, 46 trainers are already on board, with the goal of improving compliance with MLB performance-enhancing substance policies, long an issue with players from Latin America.
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Besides helping with the drug issue, involving these trainers in an important MLB initiative will place them in position to make connections within the game that can enhance their ability to work in the Minor and eventually Major Leagues.
The other enhances program is “Play Ball,” reaching Panama for the first time, this week. Children attending the sessions in three Panamanian cities (Panama City, hitré, Herrera; and David, Chiriquí) will receive a bat and ball, branded t-shirts and wristbands, with former Major Leaguers and Panama natives Bruce Chen and Olmedo Saenz on hand to support. The goal is to grown the game across North America, with more than 20 previous stops including Monterrey, Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and numerous U.S. cities with large Hispanic populations from The Bronx and Manhattan, N.Y., to El Paso, Texas; San Diego, Calif.; and Mesa, Ariz.