Félix Mantilla: A World Series Champion Who Continues to Teach Kids On and Off the Field • Latino Sports

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Félix Mantilla: A World Series Champion Who Continues to Teach Kids On and Off the Field

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MILWAUKEE – Sixty years ago, this Puerto Rican native, Félix “El Gato” Mantilla, can still vividly recall winning the 1957 World Series against the dreaded New York Yankees.

Amid all the adulation on the field and in the locker room, there was a huge smile on Mantilla’s face as the Milwaukee Braves were crowned champions.

Sixty years later as Mantilla, 83, sat in the stands at Helfaer Park, a little league field that is adjacent to Miller Park, that heartwarming smile was still prevalent but for an entirely different reason.

It wasn’t the current Brewers’ team that was in attendance but two special teams – The Félix Mantilla Little League of Milwaukee and Los Gallitos de Isabela of Puerto Rico.

Since 2016, both teams have been a part of an educational and cultural exchange. Last year after a successful fundraising campaign by Journey House, a community-based nonprofit center in Milwaukee and the team’s official sponsor, Mantilla’s team traveled to Puerto Rico to not only play baseball in his hometown of Isabela but to experience the island’s rich history and geographical beauty.

Team Isabela (including their parents who traveled with the team) were given the red-carpet treatment that included a “Welcome to Milwaukee BBQ”, a boat tour on Lake Michigan, excursion to Discovery World, ice skating, dinner at the Harley Davidson Museum, the Milwaukee Zoo and of course an afternoon game at Miller Park.

The Brewers won 7-4.

During their five-day stay, Team Isabela would split the series with the Félix Mantilla Little League who won the first game 6-4 while Los Gallitos de Isabela narrowly grabbed the finale by a score of 8-7.

At the closing ceremony and dinner at Journey House, the players, coaches, parents and even Félix Mantilla were astonished to see a special guest walk into the recreational room: current Brewers infielder, Neil Walker.

This former Met, who was recently traded to the Brewers, made a surprise visit and spoke to the players about his career, how Roberto Clemente affected his life, the importance of education and always giving 100 percent effort.

During the first game of his team’s baseball tournament, Mantilla reminisced about the 1957 World Series, arriving in the United States from Puerto Rico, his close friendships with some memorable players, the ball clubs he played for (including the 1962 Mets) and his crowning achievement – The Félix Mantilla Little League.

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About Danny Torres

Bronx native, Danny Torres is a high school teacher, an avid baseball fan and freelance sports journalist. Besides his work with Latinosports.com, he has written for MLB.com, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y, the N.Y. Mets, the Puerto Rico Daily Sun and Manhattan Times. He was a frequent guest on 'Solamente Pelota', a now-defunct sports program on XM/Sirius satellite radio. In 2010, he contributed to an updated prologue for the re-released book, 'Clemente, the Enduring Legacy' by Kal Wagenheim. In 2011, as part of a series commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month on MLB.com, he contributed to a five-part series saluting the greatest Latino pitchers in baseball. Finally, in December, 2011, he participated in a panel discussion connected with the Smithsonian exhibition, 'Beyond Baseball, The Life of Roberto Clemente' in Baltimore, Maryland. In December, 2012, he appeared on the front page of 'El Diario/La Prensa', a NY Spanish daily newspaper and was featured in a five-part series dedicated to the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player, Roberto Clemente who tragically died 40 years ago.

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  • Cruz Roque-Vicens

    I am the same age as Felix Mantilla… I am from Caguas, the baseball team where Felix and Hank Aaron played… It’s true that Hank have problems playing second base and batting, but all that change when starte playin as outfielder… He starte hitting and was champion bat for the seaon… As Felix said, the rest is history…