The Latin American influence in professional sports in the United States is quite clear not only on the field, but also in executive offices, team owners and broadcasting cabins. PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to five figures that enrich the Latin American legacy on U.S. territory by playing different roles.
Arturo “Art” Moreno: The Megabuck Owner of the MLB Angels
This multimillionaire is the first Mexican-American businessman to own an MLB franchise. He bought the Anaheim Angels in 2003, which play in the West region of the American League, and he later renamed the team as the Anaheim Los Angeles Angels.
Moreno was born in Arizona, from a Mexican-American family. His grandfather was the founder of the first Spanish-language newspaper in Tucson. Moreno fought in Vietnam war and, after his return, he got his degree and entered the advertising business with his company named Outdoor Advertising. He was doing so well that he sold the company for over eight billion dollars in 1998. Baseball is his main sports passion. So he acquired a Minor Leagues team in 1986, Salt Lake Trappers, and he later sold it in 1992. He spent years trying to get a MLB franchise. His first try was with expansion team Arizona Diamondbacks, but he couldn’t close the deal. He then focused his efforts on the Angels that were managed by The Walt Disney Company. Moreno paid 180 million dollars to convince the owners. Over a decade after this operation, the Angels’ value is three time higher than the amount paid by Moreno in 2003.
Rafael “Felo” Ramírez: A Sportscasting Legend
No other Latin American professional ha commentated more baseball games than Cuban Rafael “Felo” Ramírez, who is a member of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. At the age of 93, this iconic sportscaster, labeled as the official voice of the MLB Miami Marlins, is still active and admits that he is not happy when he is away from the microphone. “Felo” began his career as a baseball sportscaster back in Cuba, in 1945, when he was only 22 years old. His voice and knowledge related to this sport opened many doors for him in that country. Ramírez was there for the first game played at the Grand Cerro Stadium, in Havana, the main sports facility in Cuba, which already celebrated its 70th anniversary. Up to 1959, “Felo” had commented games of the Cuban professional league and the Caribbean Series. Afterward, “Felo” moved to Puerto Rico and he spent the following decades working on the games played by teams from that country and Venezuela, such as Cangrejeros de Santurce, Senadores de San Juan, Tigres de Aragua and Navegantes de Magallanes. Moreover, he worked with another microphone star, Buck Canel, for “Cabalgata deportiva Gillete” show, which was broadcasted in several Latin American countries.
Ramírez has commented dozens of World Series and All-Star Games for Latin America. Since the creation of the Florida Marlins in 1993, “Felo” has been that team’s official Spanish voice. His unforgettable phrase “the Marlins are winning” has been heard during 23 seasons in a row and this iconic sportscaster underlines that he will be in front of the microphone “as long as God lets him do it”.
Melvin Roman: A Agent for Latin American Ballplayers
One of the biggest challenges faced by Latin American players in Major Leagues aims at understanding how the baseball business works in the United States. A key role is played by the athlete’s agent in this understanding process, which is even more complex when some of them don’t speak English. Nowadays, Puerto Rican Melvin Roman is one of the most prestigious agents among Latin American players, and he has his own company, MDR Sports.
Roman is an expert in terms of baseball, especially because he played it and, although he didn’t make it to MLB, he did play in minor leagues. Roman spent several years working for U.S. CSMG Sports, in Chicago, until he decided to open his own agency. He presently represents 65 ballplayers and 29 of them are already playing in Major Leagues. These athletes come from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico and Panama. Roman’s role, as an agent, is not only about getting the best contract for his clients, but also advising them when it comes to investing their money so they have financial stability once their sports career is over. Among the most famous athletes managed by Roman, Puerto Rican Yadier Molina has been described as the best defensive catcher in MLB. The list also includes Dominican Jhonny Peralta and Cuban Brayan Peña.
Ron Rivera: The Second Latin American Coach in a Super Bowl
Only three Latin American athletes have become head coach of a NFL team. Two of them guided their team to a Super Bowl. Out of them, only one is presently coaching a team in the most popular professional league in the United States: Ron Rivera.
Legendary Tom Flores had previously led the Raiders to the Super Bowl title and he did the same with the Seahawks; meanwhile, Tom Fears was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints between 1967 and 1970. 53-year-old Rivera was born from a Puerto Rican father and a Mexican-American mother. He presently stands out as one of the most influential Latin American figures in the U.S. sports realm, a position that was backed up by the outstanding result obtained by the Carolina Panthers, in the 2015-16 NFL season. Rivera took that franchise all the way up to the National Conference title, with Cam Newton leading the team. Although they were the favorite team to win, the Panthers were defeated by the Denver Broncos, in Super Bowl 50, played in San Francisco, which was Peyton Manning’s last games. Rivera has been in NFL for over three decades. He won a Super Bowl ring as a player of the Chicago Bears in 1985 and, after his retirement, he worked as an assistant and coordinator until his appointment as head coach in 2011. Rivera is aware of his influence on the Latin American athletes. In an interview given to ESPN, he said: “I’m very lucky to have many Latin American people following us. They have always supported me and I proudly carry that responsibility. I’m excited to represent my legacy.”
Kaleb Canales: A Young Brilliant Mind in the NBA
While the presence of Latin American executives in other professional leagues has been wider (three head coaches in NFL and four in MLB) there has been only one Latin American coach in NBA: Kaleb Canales.
Canales was born in Laredo, Texas, and his family has Mexican-American origins. In 2012, 23 games before the end of the regular season, he was appointed head coach of the Portland TrailBlazers, which gave him the opportunity to write his name in record books as the first Latin American coach to reach that position. 38-year-old Canales presently works as coordinator with the Dallas Mavericks. This team, managed by Rick Carlisle, has German Dirk Nowitzki as the star and Puerto Rican J.J. Barea is also included in the lineup. Canales’ professionalism has caught the eyes of players and Nowitzki recognized the passion shown by the young coordinator. “He always has the right answer and knows how to motivate people and adjust things. He is a brilliant mind in the NBA”, the German player said. Will Canales coach another NBA team? He has plenty of talent and youth to do it.