<
>

Atlanta is the home of the Braves -- and Los Bravos

Fans at SunTrust Park had a good time at the park's inaugural game on April 14. Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta. Home of Los Bravos?

The Atlanta Braves, as a franchise, have recognized and understand their ever-changing community and Latinos' love of baseball.

And it's working. People inside and outside of the team are embracing Los Bravos.

According to the U.S. Census, between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population in Atlanta grew more than 16 percent. It continues to climb.

"Our new ballpark this year is located in Cobb County, which has seen a terrific increase [of Latinos]," said Derek Schiller, president of business for the Braves.

"I see a lot of Spanish fans coming to the games now. There's going to be more once they see the Los Bravos jerseys."

Eddie Perez, Atlanta Braves first base coach

"It's a city that has taken me by surprise with its diversity," stated Tutul Rahman, a marketing expert living in Atlanta. "The Hispanic population has more than doubled in the past 10 years."

The Los Bravos platform came about organically, spurred on by people in the organization who wanted the team to better connect with these potential new fans.

"The instigation came from a number of our employees who have a Hispanic background or speak Spanish and just were very interested in that part of the business," Schiller said.

To Rahman, it's no surprise that Hispanic influence is growing in Atlanta.

"You can see the cultural impact from some of the events in Atlanta, to the food in Buford Highway and to the sporting events," Rahman explained, pointing out that business of all types should engage Hispanics. "Just from a demographics and future growth standpoint."

The Los Bravos program is not the first time the Braves have made an effort.

"We've had a lot of Hispanic outreach," said Schiller, mentioning that in the past, broadcasts of Braves games reached Puerto Rico and helped create fans there via the team's secondary audio option in Spanish. Now, the Los Bravos effort is multiplatform.

The Braves have consolidated and expanded their Spanish-language web content to one main Spanish website and have added social media via Facebook and Twitter. The organization is also producing video features and advertising in Spanish, engaging in community outreach to Latinos and even renaming a studio, Los Bravos Studio, with presenting sponsor Univision. At the announcement of the whole initiative, earlier this month, former players Javy Lopez and Eddie Perez modeled Los Bravos jerseys the team will wear in September during Hispanic Heritage month.

The Los Bravos program is already a success with a crucial segment of Latinos in Atlanta: those on the Braves' team and staff.

First-base coach Perez was excited to be part of the launch, though it was a pleasant surprise to him as he wasn't told about it in the planning stages. After he took part in the announcement and photo op with Lopez, Perez kept his Los Bravos jersey on.

"I went to the locker room to show all the guys," Perez explained. "They asked me where I got it. I told them we were going to wear it later in the year. Everybody was happy."

Besides the legacy the Braves carry with all their Hispanic players of both the past and present, the club has also featured a Latino manager in the past -- Fredi Gonzalez, from 2011 to 2016.

"Having Fredi here for a couple of years as the only Spanish manager in the big leagues is important," said Perez, who is Venezuelan. "I think we're going to see more Spanish people playing, and I hope we see more Spanish people managing big-league teams. There's already a lot of [Hispanic] coaches out there. We'll see."

Besides the broadcasting outreach and the partnerships with Univision and Telemundo, the Braves are now offering Los Bravos merchandise for sale in their team store.

"Very strong," Schiller said of the initial sales. "We've had a terrific response. There's a tremendous outpouring of support."

Some support has come from the Latino players themselves, eager to buy up merchandise representing both their team and ethnic heritage.

"They wanted to get them," Perez said of his teammates purchasing Los Bravos gear. "I told them they could get the T-shirt. Adonis [Garcia] got like 10 for his mom."

"There's a pride to being in Atlanta that's infectious," said Rahman. "It's an underdog city, especially in comparison to other major cities in the U.S. As a sports team does well, you'll feel the entire city support it."

Perez expects the Los Bravos jerseys and other merchandise will be popular with fans.

"I see a lot of Spanish fans coming to the games now," Perez said. "There's going to be more once they see the Los Bravos jerseys. They'll feel like the team, MLB cares about them."


For Braves coverage and complete coverage of baseball, go to ESPN's MLB page.