In interviews with Baseball America at each of the last two Winter Meetings, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner has made it clear that the league wants to everything it can to become more diverse and inclusive. In 2017, part of that effort included the “Es Divertido Ser Un Fan” campaign, in which three teams--the Charlotte Knights, Visalia Rawhide and Las Vegas 51s--adopted Spanish nicknames and wore (and sold) apparel with those new monikers.
This year, MiLB is taking that idea and kicking it up a couple of notches with the Copa De La Diversión (Fun Cup, in English), which will include 33 teams across 19 states. The participating clubs are: the Albuquerque Isotopes, Bowie Baysox, Brooklyn Cyclones, Charlotte Knights, Corpus Christi Hooks, Daytona Tortugas, Durham Bulls, El Paso Chihuahuas, Eugene Emeralds, Everett AquaSox, Greenville Drive, Hartford Yard Goats, Hillsboro Hops, Inland Empire 66ers, Kane County Cougars, Kannapolis Intimidators, Lake Elsinore Storm, Las Vegas 51s, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Memphis Redbirds, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Omaha Storm Chasers, Pawtucket Red Sox, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, San Antonio Missions, San Jose Giants, Stockton Ports, Tulsa Drillers, Visalia Rawhide and Winston-Salem Dash.
The Copa will be more than just new names and apparel (but that will still be an element). This version will also include a 3-foot tall trophy, which will travel from city to city during the season. The trophy’s journey will begin on April 8 in Round Rock.
“Minor League Baseball is built on the fun, memory-making experiences created by our teams each and every day,” Minor League Baseball’s vice president of marketing strategy and research Kurt Hunzeker said. “When we introduced ‘It’s Fun to Be a Fan’ and ‘Es Divertido Ser Un Fan’ last season, the overwhelmingly positive response led us to create this season-long event series, further showcasing our teams’ commitment to their communities and MiLB’s unique brand of fun.”
Each participating team’s new name will be unveiled on March 20. The participating teams will also auction their caps and jerseys after Copa games to raise money to benefit Hispanic-themed charities in their city or region. This campaign is just part of the way O’Conner and MiLB would like the league to diversify itself. Another part, O’Conner said in 2016, is for front offices to hire an employee base that more closely mirrors the breakdown of their communities.
“What it means is your club has to look from the inside out like the marketplace looks at you. Your market is different than my market. You don't have to hire to my market specs, you have to hire to yours. We give every club what their demographics are and suggest to them that this is what their community is made of,” he said. “If you want to penetrate your community 100 percent, it would behoove you to look like that from the inside out so when you interface with your community you're speaking to them and communicating with them and interacting with them in a way that they're familiar with. It's comfortable for them because it's like them and not unlike them.”
With the addition of La Copa De La Diversión, Minor League Baseball is giving teams another way to take home a trophy.