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Hispanic Heritage Month: A Well Deserved Tribute To Juan Alicea

Mr. Juan Alicea in front of the Spanish Broadcasting (Photo courtesy Kay-NY Mets)

Queens, NY: Puerto Rican, Juan Alicea has been with the NY Mets organization for approximately fifty-two years. He started with the Mets the year I was a senior in Aviation High School in Queens. Anyone that has been with any organization for that long definitely merits recognition. That’s exactly what the Mets organization did on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, they honored Juan by naming the Spanish Broadcasting Booth after him.

Mets Spanish Broadcasters posing with Juan Alicea. (Photo courtesy of Kay-NYMets)

The Juan Alicea Spanish Broadcasting Booth will now and forever be a fixture in the Mets organization. The Mets, who have a large Puerto Rican fan base, majority baby boomers and some of their children did the right thing for a community that has been a pioneer in New York City creating opportunities now available to many other Latino’s.  Looking back at history we need to see how the Mets developed an early Puerto Rican fan base.

At one time there were two national league teams in New York. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. In 1942 Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Not only did the National League break the color barrier but also, they had many more Latino baseball players than the American League that were less interested in players of color.  The Yankees in 1955 and the Boston Red Sox in 1959 were the last two teams to integrate.   Then In 1957 both, the Dodgers and the Giants left New York to go to California. Eventually the NY Mets were born and began playing their early days right across the Harlem River from Yankee stadium in Manhattan’s Polo Grounds, the former home of the  New York Giants (The Orange in the Mets logo and uniform is a tribute to the orange color in the Giants logo and uniform). Many of the Giants and Dodgers fans now had a National League team to cheer. That Puerto Rican fan base increased recently with the addition of Francisco Lindor and Javier Báez who joins Edwin Díaz as three Puerto Rico born players. If you add Marcus Stroman and Seth Lugo who both have Puerto Rican ancestry the Mets have more Puerto Ricans than any other team in MLB.

Thus, the Puerto Rican/Latino community appreciates the fact that a Puerto Rican, who opened the doors for many others was enshrined in Citi-Field.

To understand Juan Alicea from a different perspective I would like to share this story.

Approximately fifteen years ago Latino Sports received passes to bring a few high school

Omar Minaya congratulates Juan Alicea. (Photo courtesy Kay-NYMets)

students who were members of a sports club we started in a local South Bronx High School for a tour. Students interested in the business of sports and pursuing a sports career were invited. As I was giving them a tour of the television and radio broadcast booths, we passed by the Spanish Broadcasting Booth. I was showing the students through the small glass window and explaining what was going on. Mr. Alicea noticed us and motioned with his finger on his lips to come in. We came in and the students were hearing him transmit in Spanish. When the inning ended, he turned around, I did the introductions and he invited one of the students that stated he wanted to cover sports to sit next to him. The student was elated as he put on the headphones. Mr. Alicea told him to get closer to the microphone and asked him if he would like to announce the next batter. Mr. Alicea gave him the script and the kid read it off. That act of kindness and support to a South Bronx kid made the kid’s entire year and gave him a lifetime memory. The students did not stop talking about that experience throughout the entire train ride back to the Bronx. The next day that was the major topic throughout the school as it was also announced through the school’s public address system.

Juan Alicea was also one of the earliest and most consistent supporters of the Latino Sports Writers & Broadcasters Association (LSWBA) and the prestigious LatinoMVP award today celebrating its 31st anniversary.

Congratulations to Mr. Bill Alicea and to the New York Mets.

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