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Rockies courting Latinos

They dot the club - and fan base

Rookie pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez (left) and Franklin Morales are among the 14 Latinos on the Rockies' 40-man roster. Rookie pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez (left) and Franklin Morales are among the 14 Latinos on the Rockies' 40-man roster. (DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The "Serie Mundial" is putting a new spotlight on Colorado's fastest-growing population segment.

With a Latina co-owner of the Colorado Rockies - the first in Major League Baseball - and 14 Latino players, including several credited with key roles in propelling the club to the World Series, fans of many nationalities are cheering on the team in unison.

"You have a level playing field in baseball. Everybody gets three strikes and four balls," team co-owner Linda Alvarado said.

That's why some disadvantaged Latino youngsters will accompany Alvarado when she attends World Series games in Denver.

"I hope to open their eyes to more than a sport," Alvarado said. "I want to show them how to get into the big leagues."

And that's part of the reason the Rockies have been courting Latino fans in a concerted way.

For the past five years, each September at Coors Field has been celebrated as Hispanic Heritage Month.

The ball club recognizes one person with an adult leadership award and a number of students in a youth essay contest.

These Latino recognition programs have been so successful that Jill Roberts, the Rockies' senior director of advertising and marketing, said they are being used as a template for a Black History Month recognition and eventually for events tied to other ethnic groups.

But this Series is putting the focus on the Latino players. The Rockies' 40-man roster has Latino players from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela thanks to a Rockies academy in the Dominican that nurtures promising young players from Latin America.

"Many Latinos get a sense of pride any time you see someone with a Hispanic surname doing something of note," said Rich Baca, a Grand Junction staff member for Representative John Salazar, Democrat from Colorado. "It's a wonderful thing the Rockies have so many Latino players."

But not all Latinos are baseball fans.

"Someone had to tell me who won," said Grand Junction businessman Francisco Cervantes. "We like soccer. That is our game."

But Cervantes was impressed with the number of Latino players and the Rockies' Latino ownership.

The Rockies' organization also has been working to lure Latinos with Spanish-language pocket schedules and Spanish broadcasts of the games.

"There are millions of opportunities," Alvarado said. "This is clearly a fan base we are paying great attention to."

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