WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — The Washington Nationals held Hispanic Heritage night and honored the late Roberto Clemente on Friday to kick off their weekend series from Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins.
HISPANIC HERITAGE NIGHT AT NATIONALS PARK
The Nationals invited their fans to come out and “Muestra tu Natitude” (show your Natitude) and celebrate the different cultures of the Latino players they cheer on every game day. Before the game, they had a live D.J. outside the ballpark and food, along with special giveaways for fans who bought tickets. Right before the game started, they had every Latino player and coach walk out onto the field and held the flags that represented their home country or cultural background.
September 16th also marks Mexican Independence Day. On Friday, the Nationals came back from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Marlins 5-4. The scoring began with an in-the-park home run hit by Joey Meneses, a native of Culiacan, Sinaloa Mexico.
CELEBRATING ROBERTO CLEMENTE DAY 2022
The Nationals also recognized Roberto Clemente day on Friday. Normally celebrated on September 15th across the MLB, the Nats had an off day on the 15th so they celebrated the legacy of Roberto Clemente on the same day as Hispanic Heritage Night. Manager Dave Martinez & 2021 Roberto Clemente award recipient, Nelson Cruz wore the jersey #21 and the rest of the team wore patches with the number #21 on their right sleeve.
Hall of Famer, Roberto Clemente played 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clemente was a 13-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, and two-time world series champion. Clemente was native to Puerto Rico, and widely known for his humanitarian efforts. In fact, Clemente died in a plane crash 50 years ago while he was on the way to deliver food and supplies to Nicaragua. In December of 1972, the Central American country of Nicaragua had been struck by a massive earthquake.
To commemorate his legacy, every year the MLB awards a player who represents great character and community involvement, the Roberto Clemente award. In 2021, the Nationals’ designated hitter, Nelson Cruz won the award, and Cruz considers it one of the highest honors.
“He was an example for all the athletes on how to embrace the community. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, he died trying to help people, there isn’t any higher honor than that.”
Clemente inspired generations of baseball players and fans, including Nationals’ manager, Dave Martinez.
“He’s been my childhood hero, I learned a lot about him and the person that he was, and the caring person that he was. I always refer back to him as the person that I want to be and continue to be.”
Martinez, who is of Puerto Rican descent follows in his hero’s footsteps. Martinez hosted the last “Davey’s Dugout” on Wednesday, where Martinez invites Hispanic families living in the DMV out to the ballpark to experience a game.
“It’s about giving back. I love seeing the faces of the kids, that people have. I had one young kid one day, tell me he’s gonna play for me one day, and I hope to see that.”
COMMANDERS’ HEAD COACH RON RIVERA INSPIRED BY ROBERTO CLEMENTE
Across the DMV, Roberto Clemente’s legacy lives strong. Head coach of the Washington Commanders, Ron Rivera, says that Clemente is also one of his idols. Rivera grew up playing baseball, and as a half- Puerto Rican half- Mexican kid growing up, he looked up to Clemente as a ball player.
“I grew up playing baseball, initially, football just came eventually and it was something because of my size that naturally worked for me, but I love baseball I really did. Getting to watch him play when I was younger and then unfortunately tragic death. You know, it impacted me and so he’s somebody that I idolized and looked up to and it was really a cool thing.”
Rivera is the only current Latino head coach in the NFL, and Martinez is one of two current Latino managers in the MLB. Roberto Clemente’s legacy is so impactful, that the two Latino (boricua) head coaches/managers in the DMV see Clemente as their hero.