The Latin explosion in baseball has led to Hispanics flooding MLB rosters and infusing elite talent into the game, but when the Red Sox hired Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora, a former MLB player from Caguas, Puerto Rico to be their manager in October, he became just the 11th Latin-born manager in the long, illustrious history of baseball. All these years after Latinos became the lifeline of the sport, they still don't get much consideration for leadership positions, but in 2017 things are changing.
If this is the case in today's MLB there should be a wave of Latino managers hired. Right? https://t.co/yhJpzjnExf
After a 14-year career as an MLB journeyman with an astute grasp of the game - from 2013 to 2016 - Cora flexed his communication skills and baseball intellect as a color analyst on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.
Cora is also the first Hispanic manager for a franchise that was the last in the major leagues to accept a player of color into the fold, finally signing Pumpsie Green in 1959. By hiring Cora, the Red Sox, who faced renewed racial scrutiny this season after Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was assaulted with racial slurs at Fenway Park, made him the second manager with Latino blood to currently manage one of the MLB’s 30 teams, joining Chicago White Sox skipper Rick Renteria who is Mexican-American.
New York City’s own Dave Martinez, hired on Thursday to replace Dusty Baker as Nationals skipper, is now the third Latino manager in the game. The Nationals inked him to a three-year deal to try and get a talented team over the World Series hump, which is something his winning predecessor couldn’t accomplish.
Martinez was born to Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, New York and lived on East 93rd street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan before moving to Florida at the age of 13. He was a solid player during his 16-year MLB career, accumulating 1,599 hits with a career average of .276.
Washington Nats shot caller Mike Rizzo felt Martinez was the perfect choice. The 53-year-old Martinez previously served as the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs. Both teams reached a World Series. He became Rays bench coach in 2008. And then in 2014, Martinez followed Joe Maddon to Chicago and joined the Cubs as their bench coach, further boosting an understudy resume befitting of a future MLB skipper.
I'm just looking forward to going out and watching them play!" - new @Nationals skipper Dave Martinez on the roster he'll be managing. https://t.co/0or6QKzQSp
“What he brings to the table is he’s a perfect blend of the old-school, 16-year veteran who grinded out a 16-year successful career in the big leagues,” Rizzo explained, “and a creative, analytically-minded person that can put both of them together and really have the best of both worlds.”
These hires really speak to baseball’s increased efforts to not just find minority candidates but cultivate certain people of color to be able to acquire all of the skills needed to ascend to a position of leadership, team management and become the face of a franchise.
The language barrier has always been an excuse as to why Latino managers aren’t more abundant. With baseball still being majority white American, communication is a huge factor in choosing a manager. But as the league is increasingly Hispanic, a manager with bi-lingual communicative abilities is invaluable and a rising commodity.
Both Cora and Martinez were hired for plush jobs, with teams that are already talented enough to make World Series runs. Teams who are division winners loaded with talent. Cora and Martinez represent the new MLB, where a changing culture has forced intelligent and open minded GM’s to move in a new direction and stay ahead of the competitors.
Miguel Gonzalez became the first Latino manager in Major League Baseball 78 years ago, but bigotry and a lack of opportunity thwarted his chance to be named a full-time manager. He enjoyed stints as the Cardinals’ interim manager in 1938 and ‘40 but it wasn’t until 1969 that a hispanic manager was at the helm of a team to start a season.
Cuban Preston Gomez worked his way through the ranks and earned a job managing the Padres. He also had managerial gig with the Astros (1974-75) and Cubs (1980).
The heart and soul of American baseball is becoming increasingly Hispanic. A sport that has dwindled in popularity among American sports has been embraced by the Latino community and is religiously embedded in their athletic DNA and culture.
Now, the floodgates are open for the Latino manager, leader, communicator and championship cultivator to take center stage and conquer more milestones and barriers.