By Julio Pabón
LOS ANGELES, CA — July 19, 2022 — (NOTICIAS NEWSWIRE) — It was a Latino journey through history listening to the stories of Fernando Valenzuela, Edgar Martínez, Jaime Jarrín, Vinny Castilla, and Manny Mota who participated in a panel on Latino baseball legends. They each told stories of their journeys in the Majors.
In the middle of all the hoopla from the Playball Park activities taking place in the Los Angeles Convention Center, these five Latino legends held captive a standing-room-only crowd by sharing a bit of their life experience in baseball. What was most interesting was that the pavilion was not just full of the older crowd of baseball buffs interested in listening to players and baseball personalities that they remembered, but that there were also many youths who were just as interested in what was being shared.
For most who might not remember some of the panelists, here is a breakdown. They were Mexican-born, six-time All-Star pitcher Fernando Valenzuela the first and only player to win the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards in the same season.
Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrín from Ecuador who is the longest-tenured active English or Spanish broadcaster in his 64th season.
All-Star Dominican outfielder Manny Mota who was 13 seasons with the Dodgers and was a longtime holder of the all-time record for pinch hits.
Hall of Fame designated hitter Edgar Martínez from Puerto Rico who is considered one of the greatest Mariners of all time and two-time Mexican All-Star third baseman Vinny Castilla who’s 320 home runs are the most by any Mexican player. The panel was moderated by Jesse Sanchez, MLB.com’s director of talent development and diversity outreach.
Each one of these legends spoke about their trajectory and specific details that were symbolic in their careers and in baseball history. Castilla attested to the “Fernandomania” that not only swept Los Angeles and the United States but Mexico as well. “When Fernando pitched, in Mexico, you don’t see [anybody] in the streets, man. Everybody wanted to watch the game,” Castilla said. “I’m a little bit emotional, because this man right there gives back to the game so much, not just in Mexico but in all of Latin America.”
Jarrín spoke about his early years in broadcasting, and in my opinion spoke to the reality of the Latino presence in baseball when he said, “I could count the number of Latinos in one hand, names like Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda. Now it is my greatest pleasure to see every organization has at least in the Major Leagues five or six players.” He continued, “and it is great for me to see the best players in baseball, most of them are from Latin countries, mainly from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, from Mexico and now from Venezuela also. It is fantastic to see.”
At the end, they allowed several questions from the audience and one was from a young teen who asked if he could take a picture and get an autograph from Fernando Valenzuela. The moderator, Sanchez invited the youngster on stage to take his picture and explained: “how forty years have gone by and still the legacy of Fernandomania is alive in the youth of today.” This is something that baseball needs to happen in mass to continue to keep alive the spirit of America’s pastime for all future generations.