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Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Latin America's contributions to baseball

This Hispanic Heritage Month, we're taking a look at the important contributions Latin America has made to the sport of baseball.

HOUSTON — Baseball is America’s pastime, but over the years, the game has grown in popularity in Latin America.

As the Houston Astros embark on another playoff run, it’s important to pause and recognize that what’s happened over the past eight to 10 years would not have been possible without contributions from multiple Latin American players.

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You can’t watch baseball these days without seeing a player from Latin America.

“You know, it means a lot,” Astros star Jose Altuve said. “Coming from a Latin American country that obviously that baseball is the number one sport.”

Altuve is from Venezuela, and in the 2022 season, the MLB had 202 players from Latin America. Another one of those players is Houston's Yuli Gurriel, who's from Cuba where love for baseball is on another level.

Baseball in Cuba is like soccer in Brazil or in other South American countries. It’s the priority, it’s the national sport, Gurriel told KHOU 11’s Daniel Gotera in Spanish.

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Baseball was first introduced in Cuba in 1864. The first Hispanic player in the big leagues was from Cuba in 1911 and the Black Latino player Minnie Miñoso who debuted in 1949. After that, thousands have played, notably Roberto Clemente and Juan Marichal among countless others.

Playing in the U.S. representing their home country takes their pride to another level, as Astros starter Framber Valdez told us recently.

When asked what everyone back at home thinks of his success, Valdez said they feel good about how he’s advanced in his career.

“I signed with an academy, came from my town, represent my country and now I’m shining in the big leagues,” he told Gotera in Spanish.

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Valdez has used his platform for good back home in the Dominican Republic. This past offseason, he helped build a new church in his hometown, fulfilling a promise he made a long time ago.

Valdez and others continue to put their fingerprints on America’s pastime and all the Americas are tuning in for almost every pitch.

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