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Hispanic Heritage Month 2016

Smithsonian Collecting Items to Show Baseball’s Impact on Latino History

An old baseball glove your child wore during Little League practice. A home run ball that you caught during a game. Photos of your grandfather, who used to play in the minor leagues.

Do you have any of these items stashed away? Because a new initiative from the Smithsonian is looking for them.

Newspaper clipping from the El Paso-Herald Post featuring Leo Martinez on the right. Jaclyn Nash / National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History from the Smithsonian is working to present “Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues,” a collecting initiative that will gather items that show the impact baseball has had on Latino culture.

“Curators identify objects that reflect the social and cultural influence of baseball in Latino communities,” Melinda Machado, director of communications and marketing for the NMAH, said. “Little League which brought families together, or company sponsored teams in communities with factories or railroads, all the way up to minor and major leagues. We hope to cover the whole breadth of Latino culture.”

According to a recent press release, the initiative is looking for a large array of items, from photos and home movies to jerseys, stadium and food vendor signs, and tickets.

The initiative has made appearances in San Bernardino, Downtown Los Angeles, and Syracuse, where members of the general public were able to bring in objects from their personal collections.

Baseball gloves, ball donated by family of Leopoldo Martinez. Martinez played for teams in Mexico, Texas, and in the Los Angeles area. He played in Cartagena, Columbia and Managua, Nicaragua for the Mexican National team. Jaclyn Nash / National Museum of American History

Latino baseball players have had a long and significant presence throughout the history of the sport, going as far back as participating in the Negro Leagues. Since then, many Latinos players have been incredibly successful, such as Mariano Rivera, Sammy Sosa and the late baseball legend Roberto Clemente.

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“People have allowed us to make copies of their photos, because they’re not ready to part with them, but other people have been willing to give us the originals,” Machado said. “A fan from Los Angeles brought in photo albums of her sons who played Little League, and their dad who had been a baseball player, so this was important to them.”

Through this initiative, the NMAH is partnering with multiple universities and museums in order to capture as much of this history as possible and to build towards a full-fledged future exhibit.

The next “Latinos and Baseball” event will be at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado on September 19th.

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