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The Rays make history on Roberto Clemente Day

This was one special lineup

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

All the players in Thursday afternoon’s lineup were sporting the number 21 in honor of baseball legend Roberto Clemente, but for the first time in history, they also had something else in common. The Rays’ lineup against the Jays was entirely made of Latino players, something that has inexplicably never occurred in an MLB game before Thursday.

The men on the field: Yandy Diaz, Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, Manuel Margot, Jose Siri, Harold Ramirez, David Peralta, René Pinto, and Isaac Paredes, represented several countries including Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico, and most of them didn’t even recognize what was special about the lineup until after the game.

When the players were interviewed following the 11-0 blowout against the Blue Jays, they collectively spoke about how wonderful it was for it to have happened on the day baseball commemorated Roberto Clemente. José Ramirez told the press, “[It’s] very good for the team and for every Latin player, and on this day it’s more special because it’s Roberto Clemente Day... That happened on the right day. Everyone enjoyed it right after the game, because nobody knew.”

In fact, even Kevin Cash didn’t realize what he’d done until the game was in progress. “It’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that ‘til halfway through the game; somebody mentioned it to me,” he told reporters later.

Roberto Clemente Day is an annual tradition in baseball that celebrates the humanitarian legacy of Clemente — who became the first Latino player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Now every year his history of service and dedication to others is recognized as a Roberto Clemente Award nominee from every club is recognized for their charitable and humanitarian efforts off the field.

The lingering impact of Clemente is felt around baseball, because he was so much more than just a player, he was the kind of generous soul who could inspire greatness in others.

And for the nine Latino players who took the field tonight and made history, one can only hope that this lineup is the first of many just like it.