Robinson Cano sat at the microphone, his 5-month-old daughter in his arms, and spoke about his game-winning All-Star Game home run.
That’s what most reporters asked about, which made sense. He had just been named the game’s MVP for that one swing. But toward the end of his eight minutes of speaking, a different question came up. Suddenly, he was talking about earlier in the night, before the game started.
That’s when Cano and seven of his fellow Hispanic players crouched near home plate at Marlins Park and caught ceremonial first pitches from eight Hispanic baseball legends.
Prior to the game, the group was announced one by one while flags of their respective countries were presented. Roberto Clemente’s son represented the Pirates legend and Puerto Rico, Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez represented the Dominican Republic, Rod Carew represented Panama, Tony Perez represented Cuba, and Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez also represented Puerto Rico.
The “Latin Legends” were part of Major League Baseball’s effort to celebrate the All-Star Game being played in “the gateway to Latin America.” And for Cano, that effort held meaning. As a kid in the Dominican Republic, he said he looked up to some of the very players who were recognized Tuesday night.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Those guys are really stars of this game for the Latin-American players. Guys that really made this game so fun and exciting, that made fans come and watch and opened the doors for us.”
Fellow Domincan star Nelson Cruz, who caught Martinez’s throw on Tuesday, agreed the moment was special. He also added that aside from being meaningful for him, that moment and the entire All-Star week were special for baseball fans in his home country.
“It was another spectacular moment for our [Dominican] fans,” he said. “They have to be happy with the home run show [Dominican Gary Sanchez] put on, upsetting the defending champ [Giancarlo Stanton] … and for the game to end with [Cano] hitting a home run was special.”
One piece that was missing from a celebration of Hispanic players, though, was recognition of former Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in the first All-Star Game since his tragic death in September. Leading up to the game, Major League Baseball said there were plans to recognize him. But as it turned out, the recognition was limited to a video played during the fourth inning that highlighted past Marlins All-Stars in general.
“He passed away last year. Not this year,” Marlins president David Samson said. “I feel as though the Marlins and MLB have struck the right chord with how we honored and dealt with Jose and his tragic passing.”
However, he also noted that despite the lack of official recognition, reminders of Jose were still everywhere.
“You saw his jersey the people were wearing,” he said. “You still see the mural. It is not as though he was forgotten.”
The pregame ceremony also won’t be forgotten, at least for Cano. After the game, he said he was excited to finish his news conference, get on his phone and find the picture of him with the Latin Hall of Famers. Because even though hitting the game-winning home run was memorable, it sounded like he’ll remember posing with legends before the game just as much.
“I just can’t wait to get on social media,” Cano said, “to get that picture and have it framed and put it in my home.”
Miami Herald writers Clark Spencer and Manny Navarro contributed to this report.