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Latin American baseball players feel welcomed by Reno Aces and fans

An aerial photo of the Reno Aces baseball stadium
Luke Merlino
Noticiero Móvil
The Reno Aces baseball stadium in Reno, Nev.

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About a third of Minor League Baseball players were born in Latin American countries, and it is no surprise that the Reno Aces have a few Latino players of their own, with players from countries like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Mexico. However, these players often face challenges when they arrive in the States.

Despite their prevalence on the roster of teams around the country, Latino players can have a very different experience than other players born in the U.S. These athletes revealed that their experiences on the Aces team have been positively impacted by the organization.

Aces pitcher Justin Martinez, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, said he’s impressed.

“They’ve done a good job with us, the Latinos, because they give us practically everything we want. This has been the best club that I’ve ever been part of. The Aces have great on-field promotions and a great stadium,” Martinez said in Spanish.

 A baseball player stands on a baseball mound, throwing a pitch
Courtesy of the Reno Aces
Reno Aces pitcher Justin Martinez.

Growing up, his dad helped kindle his interest in baseball.

“I had a good childhood in the Dominican Republic. My dad always took me to ball games with my whole family,” Martinez added in Spanish.

After he realized he had talent, Martinez came to the United States to play and eventually signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Initially, he faced a challenging language barrier, making it hard to communicate with his fellow players and understand his coaches. Through persistence, he began to learn English.

“I’ve improved my English and I continue to learn it,” he said. “Also, if you aren’t afraid to speak it or make a mistake, it’s easy to learn,” he said in Spanish.

Infielder Diego Castillo had a similar experience. He grew up in Venezuela and came to the United States to play for the New York Yankees in 2014.

“I was 16 years old and I didn’t know any English. I started to learn little by little thanks to the great teammates I had at the time. They helped me learn English and I was able to grasp it quickly,” Castillo said in Spanish.

A baseball player jogs to a teammate for a high five.
Courtesy of the Reno Aces
Reno Aces infielder Diego Castillo.

The Aces try to do everything they can to accommodate the team’s international Latino players, said Communications Manager Adam Nichols.

“Anything that they might need when it comes to dual-lingual abilities or needs we are able to provide to the best that we can,” he said.

On a personal level, he’s trying to connect with these players better by learning Spanish, since they have to learn English.

“So I think at the same time for me to show them that I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, to sort of like extend that olive branch, and also try to learn their culture as well through language is the first like heartbeat when it comes to connection when it comes to two individuals,” Nichols said.

Again this year, the team is part of the Copa de la Diversión initiative, where minor league teams play under a different team name for a few games each season. According to the Minor League Baseball website, the program celebrates the culture and values of Latino communities. This season, the Aces are playing as the Micheladas de Reno, named after a popular Mexican drink.

But, the team doesn’t plan to stop there as they attempt to draw in more Latino fans from the community, Nichols said.

“I think it’s a community that definitely loves baseball. Anytime that there’s a baseball-loving person out there, we’re gonna do everything we can do to bring them into the fold and have them join the Aces community,” he added.

Language barriers aside, Castillo said Latino players have a great rapport with those born stateside.

“The only difference is the language, really. We are all trying to help each other win and get to the next level. So I don’t think there is much of a difference,” Castillo said in Spanish.

Noticiero Móvil is a faculty-run Spanish-English multimedia news outlet at the University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism and a media partner of KUNR.

The Reynolds School of Journalism’s Noticiero Móvil is a bilingual Spanish/English, faculty-run student newsroom at the University of Nevada, Reno and a KUNR media partner.