KANSAS CITY -- ¡Viva los Royals!
The Royals were honored as the El Dorado corporation of the year by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City on Thursday night.
The award was presented at the 35th annual Noche de Gale Awards Celebration with a crowd of 840 at the Bartle Hall Convention Center in Kansas City. Kevin Uhlich, Royals senior vice president of business operations, accepted for club president Dan Glass, who was attending the baseball Owners Meetings in Chicago.
"In sports you do go to a lot of dinners and you're fortunate enough to be part of a lot of awards ceremonies but, honestly, none of those really stack up to an award such as this," Uhlich told the audience. "Baseball and professional sports have a responsibility to the communities they live in and that comes all the way from Major League Baseball down through the Glass family. Since the Glass family has owned the Kansas City Royals, we've donated more than $6.5 million to charities."
The El Dorado Award is presented to a company that has demonstrated and implemented initiatives that make a positive difference in the growth of Hispanic business and the Latino community.
The Royals were cited for contributing to Hispanic businesses by bringing the 2012 All-Star Game to Kansas City and for several years the team has made a concentrated effort to become involved in the Latino community. The team holds a Viva Los Royals Night each year, highlighting the culture, customs and culinary delights of Hispanics.
During the All-Star week a completely renovated baseball field, largely financed by the Home Run Derby, was unveiled at Mulkey Square Park by Royals owner David Glass, Dan Glass, Royals Hall of Famer George Brett and MLB executives. The field is home primarily to the Guadalupe Center youth baseball program and has been used by the Hispanic community since 1940.
"The Royals also have provided tickets for community youth to attend games throughout the years," said Terry Bassham, CEO and president of Kansas City Power & Light. "Also they've provided baseball equipment to Hispanic youth the last four years and touched the lives of many as they play baseball in our community."
The increasing contributions of players from Latin American countries are felt each year by the Royals on the field; 12, or 30 percent, of the players on the current 40-man roster are Latinos. During the season, many of them patronize Hispanic businesses and attend cultural events. The Chamber also recognized that the Royals are increasing their international scouting efforts to bring even more outstanding young Hispanic players into the organization.
"This was a year in which we were able to do so much because of the All-Star Game," Uhlich said. "The money that was generated and went to charities like Mulkey Park is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It's important to connect to all of your fan base and the Hispanic fan base has always been good to us. It's a growing part of the market and it's just great that we've been able to work together with them the way we do.
"The work that [Royals director of community outreach] Betty Kaegel does with it is phenomenal. She's well-respected in the community and she's a great representative for the club out in the Hispanic market. The last few years have really been good and we've made great strides in all of our charities."
Editor's note: Royals director of community outreach Betty Kaegel is the wife of MLB.com reporter Dick Kaegel, the author of this story.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com.