A Pensacola Pok-Ta-Pok cap in front of a Pok-Ta-Pok court in Mexico. Photo: Courtesy of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Minor League Baseball is honoring a 4,000-year-old Maya sport and other symbols of Latino identity as part of its Copa de la Diversión, a series-long initiative aimed at appealing to U.S. Hispanics.
Why it matters: The Copa de la Diversión is seeking to grow its Latino fan base as professional baseball continues to see declining attendance and viewership.
- About 28.5% of all Major League Baseball players are Latino.
Details: Minor League Baseball, now in its sixth season of the Copa campaign, recently unveiled the schedule of games and the 95 on-field Hispanic identities teams will take on during a few games this year.
- Eight minor league teams are joining the season-long series for the first time.
- That includes the Pensacola (Florida) Blue Wahoos, who will become the Pensacola Pok-Ta-Pok for a few games; the Binghamton (New York) Rumble Ponies, who will be the Cóndores de Binghamton; and the Augusta (South Carolina) GreenJackets, who will become the Pavos Salvajes de Augusta.
- Participating clubs collaborate with their local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and other civic leaders to create a name, logo and program unique to that market..
Background: Minor League Baseball in 2017 unveiled Es Divertido Ser Un Fan, a promotional program that allowed four teams to change their names to better reflect the area's Latino communities. For example, the then-Las Vegas 51s became the Las Vegas Reyes de Plata.
- The program became Copa de la Diversión the following year, with 33 teams participating.
- Before the pandemic, Copa-designated games drew a 20% larger crowd than non-Copa games, the league says.
The intrigue: This year, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos collaborated with Mexico City-based graphic artist Jacobo Vidal to develop their Pok-Ta-Pok logo.
- Pok-Ta-Pok is a traditional pre-Hispanic ball game, sometimes called Maya basketball.
- The cap logo features a Pok-Ta-Pok player wearing traditional regalia in front of a silhouette of Chichén Itzá's El Castillo/Kukulkán pyramid.
Zoom in: Other teams say their logos and themes represent how Latino immigrants and newcomers have changed their communities.
- The Lynchburg (Virginia) Hillcats say their Copa name, Limonadas de Hill City, is "a nod to the Hispanic voyagers who spread lemon seeds across the Americas."
- The Eugene (Oregon) Emeralds picked their name, the Monarcas de Eugene, to honor "the spectacular annual migration of the monarch butterfly," which has become "an inspiring symbol of our nation's migrant population."
- "As Los Monarcas take flight with this new moniker, we will honor the presence, contributions, and dreams of our rapidly diversifying community."
Go deeper: Smithsonian exhibit catches the history of Latinos and baseball; Ted Williams' Mexican American heritage explored in new PBS documentary
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