Fisher Cats Begin Hispanic Outreach Program
When New England baseball fans think of their favorite players, Hispanic heroes such as Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Luis Tiant rank high on the list.
In fact, the first New England baseball legend of Hispanic descent was Ted Williams, who was born in San Diego to a Mexican American mother.
Every year since 2000, more than 25% of Major League Baseball players have come from Latin American countries, and in the minor leagues, it’s closer to 50%.
Last year, the roster of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays in Manchester, N.H., included Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the player many expect to be baseball’s next Hispanic superstar.
While Hispanics are present on the field, Fisher Cats President Mike Ramshaw and his colleagues across minor league baseball have come to recognize that they are not as well represented in the stands.
Art Romero, the man Ramshaw hired to help change that, thinks he knows why.
“They don’t feel invited,” he says.
Romero, a Mexican American native of San Diego with passions for baseball and music, joined the organization in February as its first diversity outreach coordinator. He will lead the franchise’s efforts, particularly in the Hispanic communities, to diversify the crowds at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
“I take this very seriously in the sense that I’m this liaison in this community and letting baseball be the universal language,” Romero says. “We’re going to let these fans know we have a lot more in common than we have differences.”
Promoting diversity is not new to the Fisher Cats franchise. In previous seasons they’ve had theme nights to celebrate Franco American and LGBTQ culture, and added Latin music and food offerings as more Hispanic fans came out to see stars like Guerrero, the son of Dominican Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, and other players.
This year, they are taking their efforts a step further. The Fisher Cats are turning into the Gatos Feroces, or Ferocious Cats, on four dates this season as part of minor league baseball’s Copa de la Diversion (Fun Cup), and Romero is in charge of creating a Latin atmosphere. An all-female mariachi band is scheduled for the May game, and he is recruiting Puerto Rican and Colombian bands for the other dates.
This initiative started last year after a survey showed that minor league teams had millions of potential Latino fans, but only a fraction attended games. Hoping to reach this untapped fan base, 33 teams participated in the initiative last season, and 72 are involved this year, including the Fisher Cats.
During each Copa de la Diversion game, Latin music will be in the air, Latin food will be on sale, and themed fireworks will cap off the night.
“We’re trying to make a culturally poignant and confident effort not just to transform the logos and atmosphere, but the entire environment at the ballpark,” Romero says. “We want to create that safe space for everyone to enjoy the experience.”
While the theme nights are an important gesture, Romero’s work will extend to local communities, identifying areas where Latinos live and work.
“It’s about creating trust,” Ramshaw says. “We want the Latinx [a gender-neutral term for Latinos and Latinas] and Hispanic community to come and have a great time, and we’ll entertain them with future major league stars here on the field.”
COPA DE LA DIVERSION
At Delta Dental Stadium, Manchester, N.H.
– Saturday, May 4 at 6:35 p.m.
– Saturday, June 8 at 6:35 p.m.
– Saturday, July 6 at 7:05 p.m.
– Saturday, Aug. 24 at 7:05 p.m.