Guayama Little League Resurrects Radames López and Puerto Rico in Williamsport, Pennsylvania • Latino Sports

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Guayama Little League Resurrects Radames López and Puerto Rico in Williamsport, Pennsylvania

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By Raul Ramos/Special to Latino Sports

Radames López

Starting on August 16, at the 2018 Little League Baseball World Series, the Radames López Little League team from Guayama, Puerto Rico will be competing in this annual tournament.

Competing in the Caribbean division, these 12-year-olds are hoping to make history. The appearance of this team will only be the eleventh time a Puerto Rican team participates in this prestigious tournament. During the past two years, Puerto Rico has witnessed a positive “domino effect” on all levels related to America’s Pastime.

Or shall we say Boricua’s Pastime.

Certainly we could credit the 2017 Team Puerto Rico achieving second place at the World Baseball Classic. The Criollos de Caguas won back-to-back in the 2017-2018 Caribbean World Series. In 2018, the Washington Nationals hired Dave Martínez and the Boston Red Sox hired Alex Cora to be their respective skippers. Last month, the Puerto Rico Baseball National Team, under their first-time skipper Juan “Igor” González, captured the Gold at the Caribbean and Central American Games held in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Baseball has resurrected all over the entire island.

But a question remains – why does this Guayama little league organization bear the name Radames López? Who was he? Fulgencio Fajardo López was a short, dark-skinned, beefy Puerto Rican who would use the name of Radames López in the baseball sandlots.

Also known as “Little Giant,” he was a versatile and multifaceted player of the 1930s and 40s in the sandlots of Borinquen. A fantastic third baseman, he played, on occasions, in the outfield as well. He was known for his strong arm, potent bat and quickness on the base path. López was born in Ponce but lived the majority of his life in Guayama.

In the 1930s, the Santa Marta Venezuelan team owners asked Negro League second baseman Emilio “Millito” Navarro to recruit a slugger similar to another Puerto Rican legendary ballplayer named Perucho Cepeda. Millito invited Radames López to play in Venezuela. When the pair of ballplayers disembarked at the port, Millito noticed the team representatives anxiously looking for the powerful slugger who was traveling with him from Puerto Rico.

Millito pointed at Radames and introduced their newest player to team ownership. They were astonished because in their eyes López resembled a horse jockey instead of a baseball player.

Millito was confident in the new player and told the Venezuelan owners to give his friend a chance, if he didn’t perform as expected, both of them would return to Puerto Rico without charging one cent for their services. López first taste of Venezuelan baseball was against the team from Concordia who that day had on the mound, “The Immortal” Martín Dihigo.

On the first pitch, the “Little Giant” drove a deep, line drive for a standup triple. Dihigo approached López and said, “Little One, you have hit the ball like a full-grown man, but don’t get too excited because you won’t score.” Dihigo struck out the next three batters.

Besides playing in Venezuela, López played in tournaments throughout the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, he played for team Ponce and the Guamaní Stars in the Insular Puerto Rican League.

After the establishment of the Puerto Rico Baseball League, he played for Guayama, San Juan, Santurce, and Caguas. He was part of three championship teams: Guayama 1938-1939, 1939-40 and Caguas in 1947-48. He passed away in 1992 and in 1999 was selected posthumously as part of the Puerto Rican Team of the Century.

Francisco “Paco” Cintrón, President of the Radames López Little League of Guayama, is excited about the success his organization has enjoyed the past few years.

“This is the third straight year we come with the 13-year old’s to Livermore(California) to compete in the Intermediate 50/70 Baseball World Series and for the 12-year-olds, this will be this first time our organization reaches the opportunity to compete in the Little League World Series.”

Regarding this 2018 team that will be representing Puerto Rico in Williamsport Pa. Cintrón said, “The team possesses terrific chemistry and we have an excellent manager in Carlos Texidor. Our strong pitching brought us all the way here.”

He added, “The players are confident in their abilities, but I like to remind them that the games are won on the baseball diamond.”  Puerto Rico is scheduled to play Korea in the first day of the tournament. Cintrón believes his team is in a difficult bracket. “In one bracket all the US teams play against each other. In the other bracket, the rest of the world, including our team, play together.”

Cintrón concluded, “For Puerto Rico, the Asiatic teams are the most difficult adversaries. The last remaining teams in each bracket go to the final game. That is why there is always a USA team in the finals. As you know there is no small enemy; we are ready to play everybody.”

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