Major League Baseball season kicked off last week on the earliest opening day in league history. But it’s not all about the majors. Fans will flock to their favorite minor league stadiums Thursday for minor league teams’ opening day. But on Sunday  the league will be doing something new: it’s `called “Copa de la Diversion.”

Minor League Baseball’s Marketing Strategy & Research Vice President, Kurt Hunzeker says  “Copa de la Diversion” is the league’s “fun cup.” During a 165-game series. 33 of 160 clubs will participate across 19 states. The cup evolved from last year’s 14-team pilot program, It emphasises Hispanic fan engagement.  

“One thing that minor league baseball certainly prides itself on is being representative of the communities it serves,” Hunzeker says.

But Hunzeker admits the league has been “slightly off” in terms of serving all of its fans. The league realized 40 percent of its players are Hispanic. They began to question how effectively the league’s offerings addressed this group of fans. The result was last year’s Copa de la Diversion pilot program.

“This isn’t a one hit wonder,” Hunzeker says. “These aren’t ‘Hispanic heritage nights,’ these are multigames.”

The initiative is now represented by more culturally-relevant on-field personas. This is done through either a direct translation of names into Spanish, or a nod to something more authentic to Hispanic communities. To honor a widely-known Central Texas myth, for example, the Round Rock Express will now be known as the Round Rock Chupacabras.

San Antonio’s team will be the Flying Chanclas, to represent a memory shared by many San Antonians – when a mother or grandmother takes off her sandal and chunks it at a child. A focus group revealed that more than 75 percent of social media chatter surrounded the Alamo City’s new name.

The El Paso Chihuahuas will keep their name, but will wear updated, brighter uniforms. Corpus Christi will be the Raspas, in honor of the “better-than snow cones” enjoyed south of the border.

Amidst the laughs and positive feedback, Hunzeker understands the implications of what many consider stereotypes of the Hispanic community.

“Any of our markets that has a Hispanic chamber of commerce, we talked to them during our surveying of the landscape,” Hunzeker says. “And so, this is not something we took lightly. But without a doubt, ever since we made the announcement on the Copa platform about six weeks ago and then the unveilings two weeks ago, the feedback has been extraordinarily positive.”

Hunzeker attributes the success of the initiative to the extensive research the clubs have done on the names and the identities behind them with a focus on the emotional weight of nostalgia.  

“This isn’t a gimmick,” Hunzeker says. “This isn’t just a catchy merchandise play by any stretch of the imagination. I think when you create something that really pulls on the heartstrings, and Flying Chanclas is a great example in San Antonio, the memories– that’s what Twitter and Instagram was all about a couple weeks ago when we announced that people were just like ‘Oh, I remember when.’”

 

Elizabeth Ucles.

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