MLB, Rangers unveil All-Star mural honoring Hispanic baseball, softball

July 10th, 2024

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Juan Velazquez described putting together his latest mural as a journey. The Texas heat and other logistical issues made for short windows of working time.

But an estimated 200 hours of work paid off as Velazquez unveiled his latest masterpiece, “Latino/a Baseball & Softball Dreams,” for All-Star Week in North Texas on Wednesday morning. The mural is located at the Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts in Fort Worth's North Side neighborhood.

“I was very nervous, to this moment,” Velazquez said. “I was like, ‘Man, what if they don’t like it?’ You overthink stuff, but I’m just happy to be here and be part of it. I hope that it motivates the youth to believe in themselves, to see people like [former MLB All-Star pitcher ] or me from the community who follow their dreams and have been able to do them. I hope they dream big, and whatever they want from life, I hope they get it.”

Gallardo and Velazquez were among several on hand for the unveiling, along with MLB, Rangers and local government officials.

“It’s great to see this mural come to life,” said Catalina Villegas, MLB’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “It’s interesting to see how arts and sports bring people together. We hope to inspire with this mural the younger generation to dream big, work hard and treat people with respect and dignity.

“It’s great to see what our great game of baseball is doing to give back to underrepresented communities.”

Mural depicts youth baseball and softball players alongside Rangers star Adolis García, former pitcher Yovani Gallardo (Photo courtesy of Drew Davison)

Gallardo, who grew up in Fort Worth and went to high school at Trimble Tech, serves as the perfect model for what is possible for youth in the community. Still, Gallardo was genuinely surprised to see himself prominently shown in the mural. He joked that he would have brought his family with him to the unveiling had he known, but he liked seeing the inspirational messages showcased throughout it.

Gallardo has two daughters who are heavily involved in softball these days, and he knows how much inspiration they could take from the mural. It features children playing youth-league baseball and softball before reaching the pinnacle of the sport with big leaguers such as Gallardo and Rangers star .

“You take a look at this and it just tells you that anything can happen, not just on the sports side of it, but just life in general,” said Gallardo, who pitched for 12 seasons in the big leagues, including two with his hometown Rangers.

“It’s great for kids in the community to be able to come out here and look at this and get that extra motivation. For myself growing up, there were a lot of doubts. Making the big leagues is a long shot. But, at the end of the day, I set my mind to it and thankfully I was able to accomplish it. Hopefully that’ll show kids to just work hard to achieve their goals.”

Velazquez has an inspirational story himself. He didn’t go all-in on his artist career until his 30s when he lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in four short years, he’s creating murals for organizations such as MLB that will live in the community beyond All-Star Week.

“That’s all an artist really wants -- for the art to be here when they’re not here,” he said. “It’s a question that I think about sometimes: What are people really going to think of my art when I’m not here? Will people really appreciate it or remember it?”

There's little doubt this mural will stand the test of time. Just ask Eleno Ornelas, the Rangers' Spanish broadcaster.

Ornelas recalled how many doubters he had growing up in Juarez, Mexico. Ornelas dreamed of calling just one play in the big leagues, and now he’s in his 25th season as the Spanish voice of the Rangers.

“This is something that will inspire a lot of us to know that we can make it,” Ornelas said. "It'll be a good memory for us.”