Nomar Garciaparra was a six-time All-Star shortstop over 14 seasons.
But before starring in the majors, he worshipped another legendary Hispanic baseball player while growing up in southern California. Garciaparra fondly remembers the days when starting lefty pitcher Fernando Valenzuela electrified Dodgers Stadium in the early 80s.
Garciaparra saw himself in Valenzuela, who was born in Navojoa, Mexico.
“I was able to see what Fernando meant to the Latino community in Los Angeles,” Garciaparra told Detroit Pistons employees recently at the Henry Ford-Pistons Performance Center. “It was inspiring to know where he came from, my family’s town in Mexico, and what he went through.”
Garciaparra, who was once represented by Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, was one of three featured panelists for the Pistons’ recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends Oct. 15. Employees were invited during work hours to listen to the engaging conversation between Garciaparra, Detroit city council member Gabriela Santiago-Romero and Pistons dance team director Natalie Miramontes. Pistons vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Stefen Welch moderated the late September panel that took place in a room overlooking the practice court at the PPC.
The programming was a continuation of the Pistons’ recognition and support of diversity in the workplace. Miramontes has been with the Pistons for nearly 10 years, and she spoke on the importance of not being afraid of self-expression. There was also universal agreement on the importance of family and heritage.
"For me to be able to express myself, to learn from my family and bring that to the court with my dancers is something I enjoy and is really exciting,” Miramontes said.
Garciaparra said: “Family is so important, especially within Latino community, because we know what family means even if it’s not your immediate family. I feel that importance of community on a regular basis.”
Santiago-Romero reflected on what it was like to be an immigrant and that informs her role on Detroit’s city council.
“I always say that I was raised to be a social justice warrior, to be someone that cares about the community and all of that was taught to me through my community in Southwest (Detroit),” Santiago-Romero said.
The Pistons organized the event to highlight stories in the Pistons organization that connect to community and culture. It’s similar to events held during Black History Month and Pride Month.
“The Pistons are located in a very diverse district here in Detroit and they have fans that are Hispanic, that come from a Latinx background so it’s important to do events like this for understanding, learning and to inspire,” Santiago-Romero said afterward.
The Pistons plan to continue celebrating the month by raising awareness on all social media platforms.
“I think learning from other people and hearing their stories is really humanizing,” Santiago-Romero said. “I am really grateful for this event, and it should happen more often for all backgrounds, so the learning continues to happen.”