Azteca Stations in Texas Will Be the Cowboys’ Spanish-Language TV Base

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Azteca San Antonio announced last week an exclusive two year agreement to broadcast three live pre-season games of the Dallas Cowboys games in Spanish on Azteca Stations KVDF San Antonio, KADF Austin, and KYDF Corpus Christi. Two of the three preseason games will include pre-game shows. In addition, Azteca stations in those markets also will broadcast four Cowboys regular season specials in Spanish starting in September 2016. The exclusive and unique broadcasts will be fully produced for Spanish-language audiences in South Texas and will include interviews, analysis, and special reports from the field. These stations also will be the official Spanish-language stations of the Dallas Cowboys in their respective markets.

Victor Villalba and Luis Fernando Perez, the most experienced and dynamic Spanish-language football commentators in the U.S., will lead the broadcast team. They will call the action live and provide up-to-the-minute analysis and commentary and scores.

“The Dallas Cowboys are a beloved team across the U.S., but particularly in their home state of Texas, and we are thrilled to be the exclusive Spanish-language home of the team’s pre-season football games,” said Luis Hernandez, General Manager of Azteca’s San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi stations. “With this new broadcast partnership with the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Azteca will continue to work closely with local businesses to create customized, meaningful programs that will resonate with their target audiences and the passionate sports enthusiasts among our viewers.”

“We are very excited to be aligned with Azteca America as the provider of our Spanish-language broadcasts for the Dallas Cowboys preseason games and Cowboys-related programming,” said Cowboys Executive Vice President, Jerry Jones, Jr.  “We have always been grateful for the loyal fans who have watched our Spanish-language broadcasts through the years, and that is especially true for the strong fan followings in San Antonio, Austin and Corpus Christi.”

(L-R) Luis Hernandez, General Manager of Azteca San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi; and Victor Villalba, the Official Voice of the Dallas Cowboys in Spanish. Credit: Omar Vega
(L-R) Luis Hernandez, General Manager of Azteca San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi;
and Victor Villalba, the Official Voice of the Dallas Cowboys in Spanish. Credit: Omar Vega

Don Garber Takes Down New York Times Magazine Article

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A New York Times Magazine journalist parachuted into Seattle and declared that American soccer has a racism problem. The lack of supporting evidence is immense. The topic of racism in sports is quite valuable, but building truths on foundations of fiction is not journalism. Ignoring meetings with ECS leadership and with TA leadership, the article presents a single person’s vision of American soccer. The author even ignores suggested meetings with La Barra Fuerza Verde, ECS’ largest subgroup, one with signage in the stadium and that provides a capo or two every match.

Many took to social media angry at the author for the gross misrepresentation of American soccer fans. A few were irrational and proved his point. Others, pointed out the lack of supporting evidence and the refusal to meet with the victims of the racial slights that are never mentioned. MLS Commissioner Don Garber praised those people.

Garber took it a touch further. This is not a point-by-point rebuttal. This is a verbal drubbing from the most powerful man in American soccer starting at 1:01 in the video above.

This reporter’s wrongful perspective that our groups weren’t representing the great diversity of our cities or our fanbase. And it just, like, unfortunately things can be with the media, [was] poorly reported, factually incorrect, irresponsible, lack of any research whatsoever. Frankly, something like this should never see the light of day – particularly here in Seattle, an incredibly diverse fanbase.

Overall MLS has 30% of our fanbase being Hispanic. We’re the only league, of all the major leagues, that has an exclusive prime time television contract in Spanish language, Spanish language radio. We are the league for New America. For anyone to think otherwise, they’ve just got their head in the sand.

I think our colleges need to train better journalists. It’s one of those things. You look at it and you scratch your head and you wonder how anything like this [is written]. This is not some blog. This was the New York Times. They know better. It just was a bad piece of reporting.

What empowers me is to see the guy getting scorched in social media. It just was not representative of good journalism.

Your Editor Asks: Should the Times apologize or explain?

With thaw in U.S. relations, Cuban baseball fears its uncertain future

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ALEX GOODLETT Yasiel Santoya of Cuba after a game between Cuba’s national baseball team and the New Jersey Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, N.J., June 28, 2016. Along the Cuban’s trip, despite many Cuban pronouncements regarding the warmth and hospitality they have encountered, there has been evidence of old-world stubbornness and tension between the two countries. (Alex Goodlett/The New York Times)

Posted: 6:00 a.m. Friday, July 1, 2016

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. — In a private interview after a news conference in which only baseball-related questions were requested, Higinio Vélez was asked one that veered well outside the preconditioned lines.

He did not scowl or storm off. He smiled and said, “That was a great question for the public, the one I was waiting for.”

Then Vélez, the president of the Cuban Baseball Federation and a former manager of its national team, gave an answer that was as paradoxical as it was

The federation, he said, welcomes Cuba’s thawing with the United States, hopes for more visits here like this month’s swing by the national team through the independent Can-Am League, and does not fear his country’s fertile developmental system being infiltrated by Major League Baseball.

The Cuban players, he said through an interpreter, “are living their dream — they are in Cuba because they want to be there.” He added, “We don’t worry about them wanting to come here.”

He said that, even as the country’s best players continue to land in the United States, shedding government and federation constraints however they can.

At that moment, “here” was the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, on the campus of Montclair State University, where a Monday news conference preceded a three-game series between the Cuban team and the New Jersey Jackals at the adjacent stadium, also named for Berra. In the opener, on Tuesday night, the Cubans won a 9-4 rain-shortened seven-inning contest before a sparse crowd.

The Jackals series is the conclusion of a 19-game swing by the Cubans against the six Can-Am League teams — three in Canada, where the tour was conceived, and three in northern New Jersey and Rockland County, New York.

Along the way, despite many Cuban pronouncements of the warmth and hospitality they have encountered, there has been evidence of old-world stubbornness, of the status quo.

While the Cubans — who said they brought about half their front-line national team players — were losing seven of 10 games in Canada before reeling off seven straight victories south of the border, the star infielder Yulieski Gourriel, 32, has been auditioning for major league clubs after defecting in February.

And during a shopping trip last week after a series in New Jersey against the Sussex County Miners, Lázaro Ramirez, a 24-year-old outfielder, slipped away from the Cuban team and has not returned.

The apparent defection led to a tense weekend in Rockland County, where the Cuban players snubbed Orlando Hernandez, known as El Duque, the Cuban pitcher with the high leg kick whose harrowing 1997 exit by boat led to a flamboyantly productive run with the New York Yankees.

“No one say hi to me, no one shake my hand,” a deflated Hernandez told reporters after throwing out the first pitch to the former Yankees catcher John Flaherty, who is now a limited partner of the Rockland Boulders.

The team invited Hernandez to launch the weekend series on Friday night, with 75-year-old Luis Tiant, a Cuban legend and Hernandez’s stylistic ancestor, tapped for the Sunday series closer.

Shawn Reilly, the Boulders’ executive vice president and general manager, said Cuban officials expressed their displeasure over Hernandez’s presence, especially since the game was being televised by ESPN Deportes.

“They sat down in my office and were adamant that El Duque’s first pitch was not to be broadcast back to Cuba,” Reilly said. He added that while the weekend was a box office success, and that “we’d love to play them again,” it was “a headache, high maintenance.”

The Boulders, Reilly said, had to pick up the costs for heightened security after Ramirez’s disappearance. The Cubans’ per diem demands were much higher than Can-Am League norms. And in contrast to the relaxed conventions of independent baseball, the Cuban players were marched from one place to the next by delegation officials, with little time for mixing with fans, many of whom, Reilly said, were Cubans and other Hispanic nationalities.

When the Cuban team then arrived in New Jersey on Monday, a trip to Union City, long identified with Cuban-Americans, was canceled because of security concerns. The Cuban team also rejected a planned boat tour around Manhattan before later agreeing to go.

Michel Laplante, the president of the Can-Am League’s Quebec Capitales and the inspiration for the Cuban tour, said it was wrong to interpret the national team’s behavior as standoffish. Across the political and cultural divide, from his Canadian perspective, it is more complicated than that.

“When you sit down with them, and they explain their position, sometimes you’ll say, oh, that makes sense,” Laplante said. In Quebec City, for instance, there was a brief uproar in Cuba when the team lost three of four games. There was little tolerance back home for news of tourist events by the Cuban team when competitive national pride was at stake.

Laplante, who spent most of a nine-year minor league career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, forged a relationship with the Cuban federation several years ago, shepherding a group of Canadian boys to the Caribbean island to learn the game in a different, less-pampered teaching environment. He approached the Cubans with a more radical idea in 2014.

“I said, ‘I am the president of a team in Quebec City — why not send someone to play for us?’” Soon after, Yuniesky Gourriel, the older and less talented brother of the most recent star defector, became the first Cuban ballplayer in more than half a century to play professionally in North America with the Cuban government’s permission.

Three more Cubans arrived in Quebec City last season. Heriberto Suárez, Cuba’s baseball commissioner, told Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, “We have set a precedent with the contracts we have done.”

Was he suggesting that Cuba might soon allow its players free movement to the United States? There is no way to know, but that would end the stream of embarrassing defections that have resulted — both countries agree — in potentially dangerous human trafficking.

From the Cuban perspective, Laplante said, there is also a belief that many of its players are promised eventual riches — “Yoenis Cespedes money,” he said — they will never earn when they wind up maxing out in the minor leagues.

A Cuban defection was nothing new for the Boulders’ Reilly, who was with the Niagara Falls Rapids in 1993 when the team hosted the baseball tournament for the World University Games, which were held in Buffalo.

“One of their players climbed over a fence, got into a car and that was that,” he said.

The player was Rey Ordóñez, who signed with the New York Mets. Twenty years later, Ordóñez returned to Cuba to a hero’s welcome, which made the treatment of El Duque all the more bewildering to Reilly, who thought he had scored a promotional coup.

When he picked up Tiant at the airport for Sunday’s game, he mentioned what had happened with El Duque. Tiant, who did not have to defect to sign with Cleveland in 1961, was treated royally by the Cubans when Reilly took him to their clubhouse. He told Reilly there often are ulterior motives with the Cubans, hidden agendas.

“They don’t want to open it up,” Reilly said Tiant told him, suggesting the federation officials do fear becoming another Dominican Republic, where major league teams mine talent with their own in-country academies.

Concurring on this point was Roberto González Echevarría, an expert in Latino literature and culture, a Yale professor and a keen observer of his native Cuba’s baseball program. Since the Can-Am League tour began, he has been scouring Cuban blogs, trying to figure out why the federation agreed to compete in a league that is considered on a par with high-level Class A ball.

On Monday, Suárez, the Cuba commissioner, said the national team had no major tournament this summer and desired an international trip before next spring’s 2017 World Baseball Classic. Echevarría, a longtime critic of the Cuban government, was not convinced.

“Maybe it’s to keep the players happy because they are not really getting paid,” he said. “To me, it shows there’s a great deal of confusion, even dissension, within the Cuban baseball establishment because the opening with the U.S. is really going to affect it to the core.”

While Cuban government detractors hope that the country’s baseball federation will ultimately have to accept the tide of change, and that Cuban defectors might eventually play for their country in the World Baseball Classic, Vélez’s immediate plan — more goodwill barnstorming — sounded much less ambitious.

“It’s an issue with the government,” he said. “If it were up to me, we’d be here, traveling every weekend.” Asked about Lázaro Ramirez and more potential defections, he said, “If we were afraid of that at all, we wouldn’t even be here.”

One Cuban player spoke at Monday’s news conference: Yorbi Borroto, the team captain, a talented shortstop some think could someday play in the majors. Asked about the Cubans who have struck it rich in America, he said: “They all come from the same school of hard knocks, from the same plan.”

He claimed not to have much information on how they were doing (or how much they were earning), but he wished them long careers. His personal ambition was to simply continue “traveling and playing with other countries.” The plan was vague enough so that the two Cuban officials, Vélez and Suárez, standing nearby, could listen in, and approve.

Next Generation of Latino Managers Ready to Follow in González’s, Guillén’s Footsteps

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Manager Ozzie Guillen (left) of the Miami Marlins and Manager Fredi Gonzalez (right) of the Atlanta Braves. (Photos by Getty Images)

Major League Baseball has a proud history of Latino managers among its ranks. Lou Piniella, Felipe Alou and Ozzie Guillén are some of the most successful Latino’s to man a dugout.

More recent Latino skippers include Manny Acta (now a third base coach for the Seattle Mariners), Rick Renteria (currently the Chicago White Sox bench coach), and Fredi González. The Cuban-born González was the last active Hispanic to lead a team in the big leagues.

He managed the Atlanta Braves from 2011 until May 17 of this year, and the Florida Marlins before that (2007-2010). His overall record is 711-696, including the playoffs, but it was his last two and a half seasons in Atlanta that ultimately led to his dismissal.

Despite great expectations heading into 2015, the Braves lost 95 games. This season, they started a woeful 9-28 before González got the axe.

His firing left baseball without an active Hispanic manager for the first time since 1991. And observers say that void may not be filled any time soon.

“Teams seem to be in more of a win-now mode and are falling back more frequently on established managers, or at least those with experience,” said Mark Gonzales, currently a reporter with the Chicago Tribune who’s covered MLB for more than 20 years. “There aren’t a large pool of minority managers with deep experience, so this hurts them.”

With a little less than 30 percent of MLB players being of Latino descent, the advantage of having a Hispanic skipper would seem to be obvious. Especially beneficial for players who are new to the United States and don’t speak English well yet.

There are quite a few Latino candidates who definitely have the qualifications to lead a major league ball club but can’t seem to get an opportunity.

One of them is current Chicago Cubs bench coach, Dave Martinez. Martinez went into coaching after 16-year career. He’s worked with Cubs manager Joe Maddon since both were with the Tampa Bay Rays.

He’s interviewed for a few managerial jobs the last few offseasons but been passed up every time.

“I’ve known Dave since 1993,” Gonzales told Fox News Latino. “He’s very observant and has learned from some of the best managers, including the one he currently works for. The Cubs were split in their opinion of him as a manager, but I can’t blame them for going with Rick Renteria in 2014, because Rick had more experience.”

Renteria himself, now the bench coach for the Chicago White Sox, would seem a worthy successor to Gonzalez at a number of franchises.

He has a wealth of experience managing at different levels, including that one season with the Cubs, (73-89, last in the National League Central), about a decade as a manager for various minor league teams and coaching the Mexican national team at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

“I hope he gets some consideration,” said Gonzales. “I would like to see Rick get an opportunity somewhere.

Another name that keeps popping up is former All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., who retired as a player in 2007. The son of a longtime major league coach, he’s been a coach on the Cleveland Indians staff since 2009 – currently he’s the first-base coach – and was the team’s interim manager for the last six games of 2012 (when they went 6-6).

It’s been reported that he was being considered for managing positions with the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, but nothing has come of it.

“The fact that more teams haven’t considered Sandy Alomar Jr. is mystifying. He is sharp, I know that from when I covered the Chicago White Sox in 2006,” Gonzales told FNL.

Alomar’s skipper on that White Sox team was the mercurial Ozzie Guillén, and there are some who want to see him manage a big-league club again. In 2005, Guillén led the Sox to their only World Series title in living memory, but his outspokenness and knack for controversy – the Marlins fired him before the 2013 season because he praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a big no-no in South Florida – have hampered his effort to return to the managerial ranks.

“I think some people have long memories when it comes to Ozzie’s comments. But the fact is he did his best job of managing during the 2005 run to the World Series and his handling of the White Sox’s pitching staff,” Gonzales said.

He also pointed out a pair of dark horse managerial candidates who are worth a look.

“I think Alex and Joey Cora would make solid major-league managers. They see the game from all angles. Joey was Ozzie’s right-hand man in Chicago and was as organized and as knowledgeable as they come. He should have been hired by Seattle in 2009, and he came very close to getting the Brewers job soon after that because of his preparation,” Gonzales told FNL.

Joey, a retired infielder, is currently coaching at the minor league level; his brother Alex, a former outfielder, has been employed as an analyst for ESPN since 2013.

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