Cincinnati, Ohio – Associate Editor Robert Rizzo and yours truly got the call last Saturday from Julio Pabón the founder and President of Latino Sports. When Julio calls, we tend to listen because of his leadership and longtime dedication to reiterate our message.
As senior writer of this web site, since meeting and working with Julio in 2003, the message has always been making a statement and doing things differently from others with advancement and growth of sports media web sites.
Over the years, as a team, we at Latino Sports have delivered a message, providing appropriate and deserved recognition of the Latino athlete that encompasses all sports. We also cover their accomplishments and provide analysis of their achievements.
On and off the baseball diamond, inside and outside the various indoor and arena sports, we have been there over the years also providing the recaps, analysis, and opinion. At the same time, we are no different from what the other webs sites have continued to do over the years that provide analysis and perspective of the world I call “Fun and Games.”
One aspect of this, though, was different and always gained my interest, the distribution and recognition of an annual Latino Sports MVP Award, an initiative of Julio Pabón and voted with members of the Latino Sports Writers and Broadcasters Association.
While others continue to provide the game recaps and analysis, as we also do, MLB annual postseason awards for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award pitcher, Manager of the Year, and Rookie of the Year are voted via membership of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Through the cooperation and support of Major League Baseball, the Latino award has become an annual event. Prior to the 2020 Pandemic, Bronx based Latino Sports would host a few events in New York including an annual luncheon or two and the award recipient would be present when a visiting player was in town for a scheduled ballgame with the Yankees or Mets.
Also, tables sold for the awards luncheon would benefit youth baseball leagues in the Bronx, many who would otherwise have minimal or lack of support to teach and develop the next potential Latino ballplayer with a goal to reach the Major League level.
Many of those youngsters from the Bronx and New York vicinity would also meet the award recipient up close and get a prized signature on a baseball, again another good cause.
The Baseball Writers Association voting process, and on many occasions, too often would result in more than one deserved Latino ballplayer coming up short in their process. So the Latino Sports MVP Award became an annual process, and prior to the 2020 Pandemic an awards luncheon was always arranged in New York or the Bronx, home of Latino Sports.
Latino Sports saw the need to recognize the Latino ballplayer that got bypassed in the voting process of the baseball writers, but in 1990 the complexion changed.
Latino Sports and the MVP Award was born. So when Robert Rizzo and I got the call from Julio, this time it was an opportunity to continue a distribution of the award and at the out of town ballpark. This time, we would travel beyond the Bronx and New York to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
This time it was an opportunity to distribute the 2021 Latino MVP National League Rookie of the Year Award to Reds’ pitcher Vladimir Gutiérrez, the Cuban born right-hander who compiled a 9-6 record, with 88 strikeouts in 114 innings.
The 26-year-old, finished 8th in voting by the BWAA, so one can understand his elation when the Reds organization gave him the good news, also joining previous and recent winner Sixto Sánchez (2020) of the Miami Marlins.
There have been others through the illustrious history of the Latino Sports MVP Award. I have witnessed the smiles and tears. I have heard words and how others are proud of their Latino heritage and what this means to their country, family, and friends.
Albert Pujols, a record number of times as a Latino Sports National League MVP, and Miguel Cabrera, the perennial AL batting champion. I delivered the message of congratulations to Gio Gionzalez, the proud son of Cuba and runner up of the AL Cy Young Award.
And David Ortiz, always a supporter of Latino Sports, the award, and proudly bringing his portrait home to the Dominican Republic, displaying his achievement to those in his native hometown.
It’s about the pride and determination to succeed, awarded for your efforts. Gio Gonzalez has always informed me, “The Latino MVP Award will always be a highlight of my career and represents who we are and what we do.”
But Tuesday afternoon, as a sparse crowd filed into Great American Ballpark, for the day portion of a doubleheader, Gutiérrez came out of the home dugout and had that look of anticipation. I, and Robert Rizzo ventured here at the request of Julio.
This was the first time we had the opportunity to present the prestigious MVP Award on the field, and prior to game time. In New York, the hospitality and cooperation, and by not being disrespectful, can’t compare to the small market Cincinnati Reds and their entire organization should be commended for being gracious hosts.
We anticipate other teams to jump on the bandwagon, as Reds personnel did, who reached out and made the call to present Gutiérrez with his award at the home ballpark.
As the huge video screen displayed the award, and with the PA announcer providing a history of the award, Gutiérrez anticipated the moment, noticeable the smiles of a kid ready to throw his first pitch.
“I mean it’s pretty special and emotional for me,” Gutiérrez said through Reds translator Jorge Merlos. “Like you said, (To Robert Rizzo) not too many players have won this award so my family is going to be honored to see me. I’m going to bring it back home with me and show my family what this award (portrait) is going to be like.”
He added, “I’m just very emotional to be a part of this Latin group. Gutiérrez, after his successful rookie year had to stop throwing in June, with successful Tommy John Surgery to his right elbow.
He is expected to recover and play a major role as the Reds rebuild and look to contend in 2023.
But the award is what this day was all about. It has been this way over the years and will continue to be as more teams look to extend the invite and recognize achievement of the Latino ballplayer and what Latino Sports represents.
A day that was anticipated. A phone call from Julio Pabón and more to come next year. We will continue the message and award accomplishments of MLB ballplayers and others of Latino descent.
Rich Mancuso is a senior writer @Latinosports.com. Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.
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