Mariners salute baseball’s Latin roots

Venezuelan ace Felix Hernandez. (Photo Hugo Ludeña / Latino Cultural Deportes) (Photo Hugo Ludeña / Latino Cultural Deportes

The M’s may not exactly be in the playoff hunt, but you can still catch some great internationally themed nights at Safeco.

It’s been called America’s “national pastime.” But baseball is really an international sport these days.

Athletes from far-flung locales like Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Japan, and Australia fill out rosters around the league. Major League Baseball reports that 28.2 percent of players on 2013 Opening Day rosters or inactive lists were born outside the United States.

Some of the Mariners’ biggest superstars have hailed from other countries: Ichiro and Kazuhiro Sasaki from Japan, Edgar Martinez from Puerto Rico, and Felix Hernandez from Venezuela.

So it only makes sense that the Seattle Mariners, who play their games just six miles from the most diverse zip code in the nation, would try to draw that international fan-base into Safeco Field.

Throughout the baseball season, the Mariners put on a host of events centered around a particular game that aim to attract to an international fan-base. Events range from the upcoming Salute to Latin American Beisbol Night, to more light-hearted occasions like Oktoberfest.

Mariners vice president of marketing Kevin Martinez explains that the goal of the internationally-focused events is to highlight the diversity in the Seattle community while teaching people about the game of baseball.

During these events, the Mariners combine pre-game on-field festivities with information tables throughout the ballpark.

At the Latin American Beisbol night on Saturday, the first 20,000 fans will receive “Hispanic Heroe”s trading cards, Latin musicians “The Coffee Band” will play, and the team will wear special “Marineros” jerseys during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Last year's Salute to Japanese Baseball Night, featuring martial arts and taiko drumming. (Photo courtesy the Seattle Mariners)
Last year’s Salute to Japanese Baseball Night, featuring martial arts and taiko drumming. (Photo courtesy the Seattle Mariners)

“Because of the growth of the game internationally, it just makes sense to do it,” said Ingrid Russell-Narcisse, senior director of corporate business for the Mariners of the international nights. “The makeup of the team is really reflective of what’s happening out in our communities.”

Ultimately, the goal is to show appreciation for the diversity of the Seattle community while introducing people to the game of baseball.

“It’s really our job to figure out how can you celebrate a community or a specific demographic or a specific interest and use baseball as that platform and that place where they come together,” Martinez said. “

Throughout his years with the Mariners, Martinez has been at the helm of a variety of unique marketing efforts, including one that may have helped form baseball believers out of skeptics.

In 2005, the Mariners hosted Stitch ‘N Pitch Night. Martinez says that while some ardent baseball fans scoffed at the idea of a theme night devoted to knitting, he heard from many first-time visitors to Safeco Field that they would come back again, knitting or no knitting. For their efforts, the Mariners had cultivated more baseball fans.

But Martinez says the real drive behind these events is appreciating the diverse communities within Seattle.

“We live in fairly diverse community, and it’s a great for the Mariners to be involved in celebrating that diversity.”

When to Go:

Saturday, September 7, 6:10 pm vs. the Tampa Bay Rays: Salute to Latin American Beisbol Night

Tuesday, September 24, 7:10 pm vs. the Kansas City Royals: Oktoberfest

Tickets for these games are available here.

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