The history of Latinos in baseball goes way back. Players from Minnie Miñoso to Luis Aparicio to Ozzie Guillén have been fan favorites on Chicago’s South Side for decades.
Never has the Latino presence on the White Sox roster been more important than this year, when the Sox could have seven or more players of Latino heritage starting in the playoffs which begin tomorrow in Houston.
“Latinos have been pivotal to the Sox success from the pitching mound to the catcher, to of course Jose Abreu, center fielder Luis Robert, with Eloy Jiménez coming back from his injury... they’ve set a culture in the club house,” Burgos said.
Burgos adds that shortstop Tim Anderson has also had a lot to do with the culture in the club house and on the field.
“He’s African American yet he fits so in with baseball as it’s played in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Burgos said. “Not just with his talent because that’s all there, but with his love for the game and his love of playing together.”
Being both foreign-born and U.S.-born, a number of Latino players are native Spanish speakers, and it is only until recently that coaching staffs have started to embrace bilingualism.
“Too often it was just placed at the foot of the Latino player. For many years it was seen as just the responsibility of the player to assimilate, to learn English,” Burgos said. “Yoan Moncada is another one of those Cuban players who might feel most comfortable speaking in Spanish, but they are able to goof off in the club house in the dugout in English.”
Last season, the White Sox became the first team in MLB history to have an all-Cuban born top four in their lineup, but the history of Cubans and baseball bleeds back to the 1860s when Burgos notes in his book, Cubans became the “apostles of baseball.”
“The role that Cubans have is affected by the realities of the U.S. and Cuban trade, lack thereof, economically speaking,” Burgos said. “What I find very fascinating is that a number of organizations, the White Sox being an essential one, have gone out of their way to bring together a number of Cubans ... now they have a roster in which we see a number of Cubans and they’re able to share their passion for the game and their knowledge of the game with an American audience.”
Contact Acacia Hernandez: (773) 509-5518 | [email protected]
Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Eloy Jiménez’s name. The story has been updated.