Latino fans describe their early love for baseball, and now, the Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers continue their late season push to try to make the National League playoffs with games through Oct. 5 at American Family Field.
Across Major League Baseball, fans who are Latino are making up an increasing percentage of those attending games. Jose Chavez remembers the first time he connected with baseball. It was as a child, shortly after his family moved from his native Puerto Rico.
"I always remember this Brewers jacket that I used to see at the store. It was probably my earliest memory of the Brewers and I was a kid, I wanted that jacket. We were like struggling and had just come from Puerto Rico and eventually, my mom was able to get me that jacket. So, it's always been special. That M signifies that we came from Puerto Rico," Chavez says.
His friend Adonys Bruno was also born on the island, where he says the influence of the late baseball Hall of Fame Roberto Clemente continues to nudge kids into the sport. But Bruno says his love for the game was cemented in Milwaukee.
"I remember, I'm pretty sure it was the 2009 or 2010 Brewers with [first baseman] Prince Fielder. I came to a game—shout out to the friend who got me tickets to the game—and it was one of the most intense things I've ever seen in my life. Prince Fielder was out of this world that game," Bruno says.
Another Brewers fan, Terry Anzueto, whose mother is of Mexican descent and father is from Guatemala, says he played a lot of sandlot baseball in Milwaukee as a kid.
"It was a good way to get together. We played in the neighborhood. Everybody got together and played ball. Times were different," Anzueto says.
Anzueto, Chavez and Bruno were all at the same Brewers game recently. It was Cerveceros Night, which is Spanish for brewers, an annual event honoring the heritage and importance of Latin American culture in the major leagues.
In fact, Chavez and Bruno, musicians who perform as Gego y Nony were featured in an outdoor restaurant area.
The pregame performances also included local Mexican-American groups, Cultura Viva and Ballet Folklorico Xanharati, doing traditional dances.
According to the website statistics, about 20% of major league baseball fans are Latino, with some variation by market.
In a written statement, Brewers official Tyler Barnes says the team is always looking to welcome new fans to the ballpark and that baseball has deep roots in many Latino families. Barnes says the Brewers also work very closely with organizations that have ties to Latino communities throughout the area.
There's also been a big growth in the last three decades of Latinos on the field. They now make up about 30% of major league players. Willy Adames, Luis Urias and Omar Narvaez are three of the more well-known Brewers from the Carribean, South America or Mexico.
They are all appreciated by Brewers Manager Craig Counsell: "They make us better. They make us a better people. We have more fun. They contribute a lot, both on and off the field," Counsell says.
Fans like Chavez and Bruno—or Gego y Nony, if you prefer— say it's important for the Brewers to have diversity on the field and to continue to reach out to the community with events like Cerveceros Night.