SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — The Major League Baseball Player's Association website puts it best: "The increase in Hispanic talent in Major League Baseball has improved the quality, style and culture of our game."
While Latino players have done all of that, the game has also helped shape some Latino fans worldwide. In Georgia, especially this season with the Braves making it to the World Series, that has been the case more than ever. I'll give you a few examples. Many of the following Latinos met up with 11Alive's bilingual reporter Paola Suro at Abernathy Greenway Park in Sandy Springs to throw some baseballs.
10-year-old Julio Rivera Frias loves Freddie Freeman and looks up to Eddie Rosario. The sports lover was born in Puerto Rico, and after watching baseball for many years, he said he could be a Braves player one day.
"I could. I could. If that's what I live up to," he said while tossing a baseball back and forth to his friend, Marco Delgado. "It inspired a lot of people that they made it to the World Series and it's also been 26 years since they've won a World Series."
His friend Delgado, who is 15 years old, said that's a dream he believes is possible after seeing so many Latinos - like them - playing baseball.
"Seeing that gives me inspiration because if they can do it, I can do it," the Sophomore who is originally from Puerto Rico said. "Something tells me I can be a good baseball player if I put my heart into it."
Then take 30-year-old Carlos Sanchez, who arrived to the park with a Braves jersey along with a Braves bat, ball, hat and a few other props.
"Growing up we were really spoiled," he said. "A lot of kids from the 90s - we won the division every single year- so we kind of took it for granted... then BOOM, it took 21 years for us to make it back into the World Series. "I'm definitely not waiting 21 years again for another championship."
Oh - did we mention he had recently had ACL surgery but jumped up and down from the excitement of the team making it to the World Series? He was eight years old last time Los Bravos made it to the World Series.
"I grew up watching baseball ever since I was a little kid – especially The Braves because we had them on TBS in Puerto Rico," he added. "When I was a younger kid, we liked the team colors – the red white and blue - so that’s why I originally picked them instead of The Yankees, because everyone is a Yankees fan in Puerto Rico... except for me."
His friend, 29-year-old Alany Gutierrez, who is originally from Venezuela, grew up watching the sport, too. This lifelong Braves fan even met her "final catch" at a game.
"It was a huge part of our wedding planning... we just love incorporating little things here and there about it," she said, while showing a glove she gifted her husband on their wedding day. "I've seen a really big culture change in the last few years with the development of Los Bravos."
That culture change could continue. Right now, about 25% of all players in the MLB are Hispanic - and most are Dominican. While, according to The Guardian, in 2018 about half of all players in the Minor League were Latinos.
"Amazing players that come from our roots and its so exciting to see them excel in such an American sport," Gutierrez said. "You hear all the Latin walk-up songs and its so awesome – it pumps up the crowd. People don’t know Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton, but they're jamming and vibing."
According to sports website Deadspin, 31 of the top 100 MLB players are Latino. The website said that it "needs to be embraced, not just celebrated."
Watching Latinos - but mostly Latinos in The Braves - make it to the World Series is a moment of inspiration, reflection, pride and joy for all of them, no matter the age or where they come from originally. It's the sport that unites these cultures and brought them to that Sandy Springs park Thursday.
"We’re just a big influence to the game and we bring our own sazón [flavor/ seasoning in Spanish] – our own flare to the game that you see in our home countries," said Sanchez.