Los buenos beisboleros
Chiefs bolstered by talented Hispanic ballplayers:
Ever since Luis Castro started turning double plays for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902, Latin American ballplayers have added style and passion to the Great American Pastime.
Castro, a second baseman from Colombia, was the first of more than 1,335 Latinos who have plied their chosen trade in the major leagues. Now it's estimated that each big-league roster features more than a half-dozen Latin-born players.
That means that most minor-league clubs, such as our own Syracuse Chiefs, also field plenty of players from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
In fact the D.R. has sent more players to the big leagues -- 488 -- than any other Latin nation, so many that a lot of American players simply refer to their Latin team-mates as "Dominicans." So says Matt McCarthy, the Yale-educated author of Odd Man Out, a new book about his single season as a minor-league pitcher in the California Angels organization.
But Chiefs gringos shouldn't make the same mistake.
Of the eight Latinos presently on the team's roster, only one is Dominican, starting pitcher Jorge Bolivar Sosa, 32. Sosa has hurled for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Atlanta Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals and the N.Y. Mets. In 2007, Sosa became the first Mets pitcher in team history to win six of his first seven starts.
But the team that's surely dearest to his heart is the Tigres del Licey, the pride of the Dominican Winter League, also known as "El Glorioso." Sosa pitched for Licey in 2008 when they won the Serie del Caribe. In his first start for Syracuse on May 24, Sosa worked six strong innings, striking out seven and walking none.
A host of other Dominicans have played for Syracuse this year and most have earned promotions to the parent Washington Nationals coached by the only Dominican manager in the majors, Manny Acta. Among the Dominican Chiefs to go up were reliever Jesus Colom (c), 31; infielder Alberto Gonzalez, 26; and infielder Anderson Hernandez, 26, another proud veteran of Tigres del Licey.