AP NEWS

Lack of Latino pro athletes due to physicality

March 2, 2019

Re: “Fewer sports means more success,” Another View, Monday:

I think Bill Mr. Gisler missed the mark.Latino kids do make up a large portion of the middle and high school enrollments and participate in a variety of sports. At that level there is no shortage of players excelling in all the sports available to them.

But after high school, Latinos don’t generally have the size required to compete in two of the three major sports in this country — basketball and football. That is not to imply that Latinos can’t play sports; quite the contrary. Baseball has an abundance of Latino players. Dominicans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Venezuelans are all represented on major league rosters. American-born Hispanics are also prevalent on these same rosters.

Arguably, the best boxer in the world might be Mexico’s Canelo Álvarez. Mexicans and Mexican-American boxers have, at times, dominated the lower weight divisions.

Kids who have the dream of playing big-time football or basketball shouldn’t give up, though. A role model could be Blake Martinez, a 2016 draft choice of the Green Bay Packers.

Martinez graduated from Canyon de Oro High School in Arizona, played college football on scholarship at Stanford and was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. In 2017, he led his team in tackles and last season recorded the second most tackles among all NFL players. Martinez was lucky enough to play at a very visible school like Stanford, but what about Will Hernandez?

Hernandez, was a second-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2018. He started every game last year and was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Why so few Latino pro athletes? Again we can look to Will Hernandez.

Recruiters and scouts will normally attend sporting events that feature schools with large athletic programs or national powerhouses when looking for possible pro candidates. I can’t blame them. Hernandez’s talent drew attention from scouts even though he played college football at the relatively obscure, in terms of football, University of Texas El Paso.

I’m glad they found him, but for the Latino athlete fortunate enough to play college sports, it’s usually at a school that doesn’t turn out scouts in droves. In other words, the big schools with a lot of talented players get more attention than schools with smaller programs.

And let’s not forget the financial hardships many Latino students from low-income districts endure. Lack of money can mean there’s not much time to pursue athletic endeavors even if a player has potential.

Hernandez actually gave up football in high school for a while to work and help his father provide for the family. While his football story is unique, working to help out at home is not.

Latinos love sports, and I would like to see more of them participating at the highest level, but our physicality — especially the lack of height — make it a challenge. Yes, a challenge but not impossible. A good reminder for young aspiring Latino athletes is an undrafted quarterback with the birth name Antonio Ramiro Romo. Most of us know him as “Tony,” and he played in the NFL for more than a decade.

So, Latinos have played and are still playing, but all in all, pro football and basketball are a big man’s game and that’s just not us.

Tony Hernandez is a retired San Antonian and lifelong sports fan. He is 73 years old and plays in a men’s senior baseball league.