In a few short weeks, Julio Mosquera will be calling shots from the dugout in his second year as manager of the Charleston RiverDogs.
But on Monday, he traded in his uniform for a blazer and slacks, and cracked open a book in the College Park Elementary cafeteria. He read the baseball-themed book in Spanish, the primary language for him and most of the kids at College Park.
“It was really fun and it was great to see how excited the kids are,” Mosquera said.
It's important to connect with local students who speak the same language as him, Mosquera said. That’s why he’s excited for the RiverDogs’ Latin-based campaign for the 2019 season.
On June 8-9, July 11 and Aug. 6, the RiverDogs will take the field as Los Perros Santos, which translates to “The Saint Dogs.” The jerseys are part of Minor League Baseball's Copa de Diversion initiative that helps celebrate Latin culture.
The rebrand reflects the “Holy City” nickname for Charleston, something the team has always embraced, said Dave Echols, the team president.
“Our fans have latched onto our Holy City brand on Sundays, and we see the Perros Santos as an extension of celebrating Charleston as one of the most welcoming and friendly cities in the country,” Echols said.
The new jerseys are just one part of the team's outreach in the Hispanic community. Through a partnership with the Berkeley County School District, players will head out to four schools in the district throughout the year for more reading sessions.
Those elementary schools are College Park, Goose Creek, Hanahan and Mt. Holly.
The players will work with the schools to increase English literacy in a fun interactive way, with prizes for students along the way.
Eddie Ingram, the superintendent for Berkeley County schools, said it’s an important initiative because of how diverse the district is. The student population in the county includes more than 40 languages and three dialects.
Embracing their culture, while also helping them learn English, is a win-win, Ingram added.
“We appreciate any effort to improve literacy efforts with English learners in our communities as they continue to become more diverse each day. We're looking forward to celebrating these students with the RiverDogs as they reach all of the goals set out before them,” he said.
In addition to the reading program, the RiverDogs are also bringing Spanish-speaking, youth baseball players to Riley Park for a baseball clinic later this year.
All of these efforts are important, Mosquera said, because of how it bridges the gap for kids and adults in the Lowcountry.
“It’s important for us to be a part of the community and for the fans to see the diversity we have here,” he said. “It also helps some of our players get better at speaking English so it’s an exciting program for everyone.”
The RiverDogs are the low-level, Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees. They’ll kick off their season on April 4 in Columbia and host their first home game of the year on April 11 against Greensboro.