“I remember in that moment when they started the music in the stadium and they played a song that my dad played throughout my entire childhood. I took a moment to watch the fans coming in, the players warming up… and I had chills just to have the opportunity to bring together one love of my life – baseball – and the other, which is my family and our culture.”
That’s how Yvette Yzaguirre, We R Tacoma’s Director of Partner Services, remembers Cinco de Mayo in 2019. It was not only an annual day that celebrates Yvette’s Latin heritage, it was the first time ever that the Tacoma Rainiers were playing as La Familia de Tacoma, their Copa de la Diversión identity which will return… whenever Rainiers baseball does.
Copa de la Diversión, or “Copa,” translates in Spanish simply to “The Fun Cup.” Minor League Baseball started their Copa program three years ago with just a handful of teams before expanding it to half of MiLB in 2019. Over 100 teams were slated to join the league initiative in 2020. Last season, the Rainiers joined the fun (cup) and got to work putting together a brand that needed to be consistent with that of the Rainiers, but that also strongly represented Latin values.
“The Tacoma Rainiers say ‘We R Tacoma’. We wanted to translate this to our Copa brand,” Yvette said. “How do we offer that same message to invite the Latin community to Cheney Stadium?”
After toying around with thoughts of food, beverages, and music, the proverbial lightbulb lit, and the team knew the one thing that encompassed all their ideas: family.
“When given the challenge to rebrand for Copa, our staff quickly settled on family being the fundamental commonality between what we have going on at Cheney Stadium and the initiative,” said Creative Director Casey Catherwood. “We consider all Rainiers fans to be a part of R Family, so it just rolled out pretty smooth from there.”
The real fun began when the team got to see their new moniker come to life. Logos, uniforms, merchandise and game entertainment all had to be representative of family, Tacoma, and Latin culture.
“We knew we had to have bright colors that stood out from the bold navy and red of the Rainiers,” Casey said. “Something that popped and matched the festive fun we were trying to create with this tradition.”
Before long, the La Familia de Tacoma concept jolted into reality.
“The flowers, classic baseball script that kind of reminds me of old Dodgers jerseys, with a nod to a powerful woman in Dia de los Muertos makeup were all carefully considered and just felt right.”
As production carried on, Yvette’s job was to think big picture. La Familia would be taking the field five times in 2019, and these were more than just baseball games with a new color palette. They would be an opportunity to bring together cultures, learn from one another, and celebrate entire populations.
“We want the Latin community to feel invited to Cheney Stadium and for them to know that they are our family, but we also wanted folks who were of non-Latin descent to know that they’re a part of this too,” Yvette said. “They’re being exposed to things that they normally might not be exposed to, so I think the days offer a lot to the Latin community and beyond.”
When Cinco de Mayo finally came, the Cheney Stadium concourse was filled with representatives from non-profit groups, local community leaders and powerful Latino voices who could share the resources that Tacoma has to offer for Latin and Indigenous people.
“As we continue through our world, there’s going to be mixed families where you might not have a traditional family, and you might need these resources to understand cultures. This offers that opportunity,” Yvette said.
One of those non-profit groups is Centro Latino, a Downtown Tacoma organization whose mission is to “cultivate the advancement of the Latino and Indigenous communities by providing social services and educational programming while honoring heritage and culture through the Arts.” Centro Latino is the beneficiary of each Copa game at Cheney Stadium, with a portion of proceeds going to the hyperlocal organization.
Within the seating bowl, Cheney Stadium’s classic energy is taken to a higher octave for Copa games. The decorations are brighter, the music moves faster, but the family atmosphere that is expected from a day at R House is still very much intact.
“For me, like most things, it starts with the music,” Casey said. The big horns, the percussion, the passionate singing. All of it gets me fired up. Mariachi, salsa, singers like Selena. It’s the best. So filling the air of Cheney Stadium with sounds like that almost make it feel like we’re in a completely different ballpark. The food is better. The whole environment is just big and vibrant. It’s a whole different thing, but still just a baseball game. You can tell it’s coming from a pure heart. I love it.”
The Cinco de Mayo game saw over 5,600 La Familia fans pack the stadium to show love and appreciation for Latin culture, with people from all different background coming together to do what Americans do: raise a glass, grab a hot bite (of tacos and elote on Copa days), and watch the home team win a baseball game.
As hoped, Cinco de Mayo was a day of learning. La Familia celebrated Latin culture, but it went beyond that.
“One of the things that we anticipated but were thoroughly overwhelmed by was the support of the non-Latin community,” Yvette said. “We had folks coming up and asking, ‘How can I offer support? Can I make a donation to the non-profit? How can I get involved?’”
“We all have so much to learn from each other when it comes to ways of communicating, styles of dress, food, all of it,” Casey said. “To be able to show love and respect to any group of people is a great opportunity and something I know our team doesn’t take lightly.”
Right now, baseball, and much of the world, are on pause. But families around the globe are still gathering around the dinner table and many of us are appreciating what we often times take for granted. Days like Cinco de Mayo at Cheney Stadium show us that we can all find a moment to stop, take it all in, and feel the music in our bones.
And that song that brought Yvette back to her childhood? It’s “Que Me Lleven Canciones” by Mazz. It might be a foreign language to you. To Yvette, it makes her think of her dad and spending time with her loved ones. Once you get past the language barrier and the unknown, you’ll find that family and making memories are the core of every culture. That’s what La Familia de Tacoma is all about.
About the Tacoma Rainiers
The Tacoma Rainiers, Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Tacoma has been a member of the Pacific Coast League since Cheney Stadium opened in 1960, and has been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the Rainiers moniker in 1995.
The most up-to-date news and notes about the Tacoma Rainiers and Cheney Stadium can be found at WeRTacoma.com, or by following the Rainiers on Twitter (@RainiersLand), Instagram (@tacomarainiers) and liking the team on Facebook.
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More information on social distancing and how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 can be found at Tacoma-Pierce County Health. The most up-to-date information on how COVID-19 is affecting events at Cheney Stadium can be found here.