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Rivera explains how ESPN’s Béisbol Experience, featuring Latino perspectives on MLB life, blossomed

Marly Rivera near the home run counter at Angel Stadium for Albert Pujols after he hit the 600 mark.
(Photo courtesy Marly Rivera/ESPN)
EDITOR’S NOTE: See Marly Rivera’s interview with Albert Pujols here.

ESPN’s Béisbol Experience project launched this spring. The comprehensive, dual-language editorial initiative is exploring an important and complex question throughout the MLB season – “What does it mean to be a Latino player today in Major League Baseball?”.

Writer/reporter Marly Rivera has played an integral role since the concept for this project was first discussed. All season, she is conducting weekly interviews with Latin American players, telling their stories in both English and Spanish across ESPN’s domestic and international platforms.

Tonight on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball, when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the New York Mets at 10 p.m. ET., the telecast will highlight the initiative as part of Béisbol Experience Week. Rivera will report from the field with Jon Sciambi, Rick Sutcliffe and Eduardo Pérez in the booth. Former major league pitchers Fernando Valenzuela and Ricky Bones, as well as current Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, will join the telecast.

Ahead of tonight’s special telecast, Rivera spoke with Front Row about the initiative and what it means to her.

How did you become involved in the Béisbol Experience?
Béisbol Experience started as a small project, where ESPN The Magazine’s baseball editor Rachel Ullrich and I started developing ideas to feature the stories of Latin American players. Alongside the ESPN The Magazine team, we gathered a list of questions related to different aspects of that journey, language, money, culture, food, etc. I would sit down with one player each week. Then, we enlisted the help of fellow and writers to help. After that, it started including more domestic and international areas and grew into an overall company effort.

What is the goal of the initiative to you personally?
[As of Opening Day in Major League Baseball] there are 93 Dominicans, 76 Venezuelans, 23 Cubans, 16 Puerto Ricans, nine Mexicans, four Nicaraguans, four Panamanians, two Brazilians and two Colombians — and counting! — who left their homelands to fulfill a dream. Each of these players has a story worth listening to — and this initiative gives them a place to tell it. I’m not here to merely interview them; I’m here to bear witness. And so during the interviews, I decided to put the list of questions away and just listen.

What has been the most memorable interview for you thus far and why?
When Miguel Montero talked about losing his father and having to play through the season with that pain was particularly touching. Many players went hungry during their minor league years. They spoke about being discriminated against or being made fun of for not speaking English well, and at the same time, they spoke very highly of those teammates and coaches who helped them out.

What are you most looking forward to during the Béisbol Experience special tonight?
Playing at the MLB level is a dream come true for every single one of these kids, but for Latin American players it goes beyond fulfilling a life-long career dream. It changes their lives and their families’ lives. What I want is for every Latin player who plays rookie ball to have hope that things will get better, to know that those superstars that they admire went through the same struggles, and to give it their best effort and never give up. I also want them to know that their stories matter.

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