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Baseball draws families together

Posted on 30 May 2013 by robwas66

On Sunday, May 19, the Cardinales played against the Piratas at Bossen Field. There are eight teams in the league, which is known as the Liga Hispana de Beisbol, or the Hispanic Baseball League. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

On Sunday, May 19, the Cardinales played against the Piratas at Bossen Field. There are eight teams in the league, which is known as the Liga Hispana de Beisbol, or the Hispanic Baseball League. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Liga Hispana de Beisbol holds games on Sundays at Bossen Field

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

On Sunday afternoons from May to October, local families fill up Bossen Park to watch Liga Hispana de Beisbol (LHDB) players play the game they love.

Games start at 10 a.m. and at 2 p.m. each week. This year, there are eight teams in the league, which is also known as the Hispanic Baseball League. The number of teams varies each year, according to the number of players interested. Players ranging in age from 14 to 46 and their families come early to practice and ready the field. The chairs of fans are set up in the shade, near the food stand, and children join fathers on the field to practice their catching and throwing skills.

“The family gets to come out and watch the games together. It’s a nice activity for the family,” said Aaron Johnson. Over the years he’s been a player, coach, manager and scorekeeper for the Liga Hispana de Beisbol.

“I have more fun coming to the ballpark on a Sunday afternoon with my friend than staying home and watching TV,” Johnson added.

“Everyone is so friendly,” observed shortstop Jorge Alanis, 22. Alanis was recruited to play on the Piratas team by a co-worker. All of the members on his team come from the same town in central Mexico in the state of Michoacan, and some played together as children.

Alanis has been playing baseball since age 6. He pointed out that kids in Mexico don’t have the opportunities to play ball there on Little League teams like they do in America, but that doesn’t stop them from playing baseball.

What pulls him to the game? “I love everything about baseball,” Alanis said.

Jose Salazar has been playing for various teams since he was 14 years old, both in Mexico and in the U.S.

“I liked baseball since I was born,” he observed.

Salazar didn’t think he was very good, but someone suggested he try pitching. He found his niche, and has been pitching ever since. To him, the benefit of the league is that he gets to do something that he enjoys. Salazar played for the LHDB for three years, left to play elsewhere, and then returned. There are currently three Hispanic baseball leagues in the Twin Cities area, meeting in the cities of Minneapolis, Chaska and Brooklyn Park. All average 8 to 10 teams.

The Liga Hispana de Beisbol started with six teams, and it has grown from there, observed Salazar.

Like Salazar, other players have come and gone in the league over the years. Some who have left the LHDB have returned to Mexico to play professionally. The number of Hispanics playing Major League Baseball in the U.S. has also grown in recent years. Today, Latinos make up 27% of Major League Baseball players in the United States. Recruiters are increasingly eyeing countries in South America for talented players.

LEAGUE GROWN WITH HISPANIC POPULATION

The LHDB was begun informally in 1997, and grew along with the immigration of Hispanic workers and their families into Minnesota and particularly south Minneapolis. In 2000, Hispanics accounted for 7.6% of the total population in Minneapolis. That rose to 9.5% by 2010.

The Liga Hispana de Beisbol was incorporated as a Minnesota not-for-profit corporation in 2006. It has office space provided free of charge in the home of the board president Alfonso Cruz Mestizo and no paid staff.

The cost per team this year is $550, which team members divide up amongst themselves. Sponsors cover the cost of uniforms.

“The LHDB has become increasingly sizable and important, moving from small pick-up games and family picnics to a fairly large organization with many teams,” pointed out Pass, a Phillips resident who has helped raise money for the group.

Former Twins baseball player Tony Oliva and his brother Renaldo Oliva has been steadfast supporters and are often seen at games.

The season kicks off and ends with a BBQ that players, their families and supporters are invited to. Throwing out the first balls of the 2013 season on May 5 were former Twins player Tony Oliva and league supporter Carol Pass.

Ask Alfonzo Garcia why he shows up on Sundays and the answer is simple. “I like to play baseball,” Garcia responded. He appreciates how all of the players get along with each other.

“You have to do something on Sundays,” said Salazar. “We do it just for fun.”

“We have fun,” agreed LHDB Manager Arturo Cruz.

 

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