A total of 226 players of Latin American descent formed part of Opening Day rosters

SEATTLE - It's nothing new, but year after year diversity around Major League Baseball continues to improve. Most of this comes from Latin America, a region whose players will once again play a huge role on their team's Opening Weekend results.

Although Latinos have maintained a representation of about 26-29% each year since 2002, they did not have as many opportunities back in the day.

Baseball has been "America's pastime" for more than a century already. Back then, only 55 Latino players reached the Majors during the Jim Crow era. Most of them were forced to play in what were called the Negro Leagues, and it's estimated that 10 to 15 percent of players there were of Latin American descent. Since Jackie Robinson led to the integration of baseball in 1947, that number has been on the rise.

Almost 50 years ago, Latinos represented only about 10% of the league's total players and even as recent as the 1990s, they accounted for just 13% of the total pool. But fast forward to today, almost a quarter of all MLB players come from this demographic.

This past weekend, a total of 264 players from 19 different countries and territories outside the continental United States were featured on Opening Day rosters, injured and inactive lists. Out of those, 226 of them had some sort of connection with Latin America. Since MLB has been tracking this information in 1995, the Dominican Republic has been king among all countries, finishing in first place every year since 1995.

To nobody's surprise, the Dominican Republic came out on top again this year, with a total of 108 players. Venezuela is second with 58 players, while Cuba rounds up the podium with 18 representatives.

Latin American Countries With The Most Players On Opening Day Rosters

  1. Dominican Republic - 108
  2. Venezuela - 58
  3. Cuba - 18
  4. Puerto Rico - 17
  5. Mexico - 12
  6. Colombia - 5
  7. Panama - 5
  8. Brazil - 1
  9. Honduras - 1
  10. Nicaragua - 1

One of those Dominican stars showcased his talents over the weekend. In a tied game that went to extra innings against the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodríguez saved the day with the first walk-off hit of his career, connecting a single down center field to score Josh Rojas from third base and give Seattle a 4-3 win.

Julio Rodríguez first career walk-off hit

When asked what it means to him being able to represent Latinos and his country at such a high level, Rodríguez told The Latin Times that "it feels really good having a great number of players here in the Majors. We know the hardships we have to face in our countries to make it this far. As Latinos we have to continue opening doors for all the young players trying to follow on our footsteps."

Rodríguez also made mention of why countries like the Dominican Republic have such a big representation in the league. "If you go to the Dominican Republic and after you get out of the touristic parts, all you're going to find is kids and adults playing baseball. Literally, everywhere you go. I think that's why we are so well represented, because for us baseball is part of our culture," Rodríguez said.

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