Each month, MiLB.com spotlights an aspect of Copa de la Diversión, Minor League Baseball's Hispanic fan engagement initiative sponsored by Nationwide, the program's official insurance partner. This edition celebrates the unique ballpark entertainment that lives up to the spirit of the Copa program. Check out our look at the similar
Each month, MiLB.com spotlights an aspect of Copa de la Diversión, Minor League Baseball's Hispanic fan engagement initiative sponsored by Nationwide, the program's official insurance partner. This edition celebrates the unique ballpark entertainment that lives up to the spirit of the Copa program. Check out our look at the similar design styles used in the creation of many Copa logos, the new on-field identities for 2023, some of the clubs' community connections and a dive into the ballpark food that helps create the Copa experience.
While Copa de la Diversión is philanthropic or community-focused in nature, there is an indispensable aspect of the program that cannot be overlooked. It’s so important, in fact, that it’s right there in the name.
Participating clubs rarely fall short on “la Diversión” or “the fun” during Copa celebrations. Of course, there’s more entertainment at typical Minor League ball games than just the action on the field. But during Copa nights, clubs make sure to capture the spirit and flare of Latin culture in the ballpark festivities.
Single-A Modesto, who has been a part of the program since 2019, took an ambitious approach to its Copa de la Diversión entertainment this year. The club’s Alebrijes de Modesto identity pays homage to the mythical creatures vibrantly depicted in Mexican folk art. But their Copa entertainment this season honored a different aspect of Mexican culture that’s already well-represented in the program: lucha libre.
The club partnered with Pro Wrestling Revolution, a San Jose-based training and entertainment company that produces live lucha libre events, for the months-long promotion. Together, they created a narrative – complete with the faux “kidnapping” of the team’s Al the Almond mascot – that culminated in a live lucha libre match outside John Thurman Field on Aug. 18.
The ruse began with members of PWR going to the Modesto ballpark for some baseball training. As the story goes, Al the Almond was a little too amused by the wrestlers’ clumsy struggles during pitching, fielding and hitting drills. So, naturally, PWR captured Al for ransom.
“We all thought it would just be hilarious,” said Modesto director of marketing and broadcasting Tim Quitadamo.
The club maintained the kidnapping storyline until the night of the live match. Following the initial kidnapping, only Wally the Walnut and Shelley the Pistachio, the other two members of the Modesto Nuts Street Team, would greet fans at promotional events. The club even posted flyers around the ballpark concourse announcing that Al was missing, along with the front office phone number.
“People would call and [we told] them, 'Hey, we think he was taken by the luchadores who are coming and having a postgame match on this date,'” Quitadamo said.
Every step of the story, which included Wally and Shelley training with PWR, was captured in a handful of video skits that the team posted to Instagram to build excitement for the night the luchadores came to the ballpark. Once the night arrived, the mascots and the wrestlers produced a lucha libre-style spectacle before, during and after the game.
“We would have Al handcuffed running around the field, like running through the outfield between innings and luchadores chasing after him like he was trying to escape,” Quitadamo said, referring to the public’s first Al sighting since the kidnapping. “We had a ring setup ... then postgame, Pro Wrestling Revolution, they had all of their walk-up music ready to go and then put on a great show. There were four or five lucha matches. And then the main event where our mascots and a couple of luchadores fought to get Al back.”
As, well, nuts as this all seems – even by Minor League standards – Modesto’s efforts truly captured the spirit of Copa de la Diversión. The club interacted with the community to learn how to authentically engage in an aspect of Latin culture, then brought that celebration to the ballpark in a way that can be fun and entertaining for fans.
Here’s a look at how some other clubs tailored their ballpark entertainment to celebrate Latin culture for Copa de la Diversión.
San Antonio Missions - Flying Chanclas de San Antonio
Since joining the program in 2018, the club created Mama Peno the official Flying Chanclas mascot. Mama Peno righteously wields her chanclas in an effort to keep Ballapeno, the club’s usual mascot, in line. The Missions have also hosted mariachi bands and baile folklorico dancers and even added a “loteria” or lottery this season.
Salt Lake Bees - Abejas de Salt Lake
For the past five years, the club has been treated to performances from the Esperanza Elementary School Mariachi Band. While many clubs invite local school programs and mariachi bands, the Bees have developed a closer relationship with the school through the program. They even once replaced a young member’s guitar after it was hit by a home run ball.
Columbia Fireflies - Chicharrones de Columbia
In addition to the live music the club has hosted at the ballpark in past years, the Fireflies celebrated another sport that’s certainly dear to the heart of the Latin community – soccer. The club held a soccer clinic on the field before one of their Copa games and even created and distributed scarves emblazoned with the Chicharrones name, which is a common practice for “fútbol” fanbases.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.