South Bronx, NY: The LatinoMVP awards are the oldest and most prestigious awards given to Latino baseball players. In the 31 years of awarding them we have never had what occurred in 2016 where for the first time ever, both the American League and National League winners were Puerto Rican and both were shortstops. They were Francisco Lindor for the Cleveland Indians and Javier Báez from the Chicago Cubs. That was in 2016. Today 2021 both these Boricuas (proud Puerto Ricans) will be playing side by side for the New York Mets. The comments in many of the island’s social platforms as well as in many in the Diaspora are all about the pride in seeing these two infield stars playing side by side again. Some suggested that if the Mets trade for next years Houston Astros free agent, Carlos Correa the Mets would look like the 2017 Team Puerto Rico, who was nicknamed “Los Rubios” (Blondes) where Correa played third, Lindor short and Báez second base. That was one incredible infield.
To understand why so many Puerto Ricans are excited about this NY Mets trade you would have to understand what that 2017 Team Puerto Rico meant to the island nation and why?
In 2017 Puerto Rico was hit back-to-back by two major hurricanes, Irma and Maria leading to widespread power outages and water service interruptions throughout the island. It was also still reeling from a mounting debt that forced thousands of island wide layoffs.
The island was poised and had all the markings of a major island wide depression if not for Team Puerto Rico playing and winning every game. The undefeated “Rubios” team had dyed their hair blonde and created a craze for the entire island where everyone, young and old were dying their hair blond and cheering on their team to temporarily forget the pain and problems they were going through.
Many towns with no electricity found ways to get the games viewed
on giant screens in their town plazas giving townspeople something positive to cheer and help cope with surviving daily. It was that pride that the entire island had watching their Cinderella team win game after game beating the odds to reach the finals undefeated that united all of Puerto Rico no matter the gender, age, religion, or party politics. It was pandemonium throughout the island and in many sectors of the Diaspora after every win seeing their underdog Puerto Rico team go undefeated to the finals Vs. Team USA. Unfortunately, they lost that final game. However, it was ironic they lost that game to a pitcher that could have played for the Puerto Rican team because as he is an American (like all Puerto Ricans) – via Puerto Rico and was the WBC MVP, Marcus Stroman’s who is now also with the NY Mets.
So hopefully this would help New York fans understand why this trade is so exciting for many Puerto Ricans who are both, Mets, and Yankee fans.
Carmen who would rather be called by her tag name, “Victoria from Bayamón in the upper West Side” said, she is happy to see more Puerto Ricans in her Mets team. Liz a staunch Boricua Yankee fan from the South Bronx who goes by her tag name: “Rose from El Barrio” said, “it’s about time Puerto Rican players get recognized.” Though she is a Yankee fan she would consider watching more NY Mets games to see what she described as “great Puerto Rican players.”
The fact is that the New York Mets will get an increase of Puerto Rican fans as many Puerto Ricans do not follow teams but follow players. Just as Lindor brought many Cleveland fans over to the Mets, Báez will bring over many Cubs fans that would go to watch “el Mago” (the magician) as he is called for his incredible offensive and defensive plays.
Congratulations to the NY Mets for making a decision that will help them greatly on the field and in the New York community that still has the second largest Puerto Rican community in the United States.
NOTE: The impact of the 2017 Team Puerto Rico was so great that we in Latino Sports decided to give every starting player on the team a special award. We commissioned respected and popular illustrator, John Penissi to make a caricature of each of the players. Each player who received their award was greatly surprised and appreciative of being recognized and reminded that they played for more than a game, they played for an island nation that needed to see them.
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