'Sabor Latino': Love for the game ties Latin musicians and MLB superstars

September 29th, 2023

Long before Myke Towers rose to be a multi-platinum rapper/songwriter whose list of collaborations includes some of the most famous musicians in the world, he was Michael Torres, a baseball-loving kid who played corner outfield for his local neighborhood team in Puerto Rico.

Torres was a big fan of the Yankees. It’s easy to understand why. At the time, fellow natives such as Jorge Posada, Rubén Sierra and Javier Vázquez were donning the pinstripes and putting on for the island.

Attending a game at Yankee Stadium was a dream that felt unrealistic for Torres. The Bronx was over 1,600 miles away. In 2004, however, Major League Baseball came to him.

The Montreal Expos played a portion of their ‘04 home schedule in Puerto Rico. One April night, a 10-year-old Torres took a trip to Estadio Hiram Bithorn -- about five miles from his hometown of Río Piedras -- to watch a game between the Expos and Marlins. It wasn’t the Yankees, but that didn’t matter much to Torres. He marveled at the packed house in San Juan for a game featuring 21-year-old Miguel Cabrera.

“That is one of my best memories,” Towers said. “It was crazy.”

Turns out 2004 was an instrumental year for Torres. A few months after attending that game, Puerto Rican icon Daddy Yankee released “Gasolina” -- arguably the most important reggaeton record of the past two decades -- and sparked his other passion: Music.

Michael Torres soon transformed into Myke Towers. He worked feverishly on his craft as a lyricist, uploading songs to SoundCloud through his teenage years. At 20, he took the stage at a club in San Juan in 2013 for his first performance. Earlier this year, Daddy Yankee re-recorded a new version of “Gasolina” and enlisted Towers as his co-feature for the track.

Towers is now an undisputed titan of Latin Trap/Hip-Hop. As MLB celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as the 50th anniversary of the genre with Hip Hop 50, the presence of Towers’ music throughout clubhouses and walk-up song playlists around the league is symbolic of the undeniable connection that exists between its Latino stars and their favorite Latin artists.

Towers has been invited to throw out the ceremonial pitch by two different MLB teams -- the Marlins and Cubs -- over the past two years. Each time, players flocked toward him looking to start up a conversation and take pictures, a reversal from that night he sat in the stands at Estadio Hiram Bithorn admiring the players on the field.

“It’s like we’re cousins,” Towers said of his relationship with ballplayers. “I make a lot of motivational music and I come from where they come from, so when my music comes on, they use it to level-up themselves.”

The list of musicians whose childhoods mixed with baseball is not confined to Towers.

Michael Hernandez, better known as Foreign Teck, is a Dominican-American Grammy-nominated producer whose resume includes Bad Bunny, Eladio Carrión, Ozuna and Drake.

But before venturing into music -- even before he learned to speak, really -- baseball consumed most of Hernandez’s life. His first “toys” as a baby were a bat and ball.

“I was getting balls pitched to me before I could even talk or run,” Hernandez said. “Baseball was instilled in me as a Dominican kid. I loved it.”

Born in New York City, Hernandez spent his early years living in Washington Heights. Naturally, he was a die-hard Yankees fan. His parents took him to Yankees games, making a couple of trips to the old Yankee Stadium before the new one opened in 2009. After moving to South Florida as a teen, he attended several Rays-Yankees games at Tropicana Field. Once, he sneakily followed Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano back to the team hotel and scored an autograph from both.

Hernandez played travel ball year-round as a kid, dreaming of one day becoming a professional baseball player. Ultimately, he reached what he described as a burnout phase that caused him to briefly fall out of love with sports. In the 11th grade, Hernandez, inspired by music idols Timbaland and Scott Storch, tried his hand at music production and quickly developed a passion for it.

The baseball dream never came to fruition, but Foreign Teck still very much loves the game. He participated in July’s Celebrity All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Harkening back to his playing days, Teck played third base, his childhood position, and slugged a pair of home runs.

“I would have loved to be a baseball player,” Teck said. “I made that switch to music and it was probably the best thing that ever happened. Now it’s kind of intertwining again with baseball, and I love that.”

Endeavors by artists into baseball are bountiful. Daddy Yankee grew up playing baseball and once had a tryout lined up with the Mariners before an accident derailed his career. He now co-owns the Cangrejeros de Santurce of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico. Towers was recently named a sponsor of the Gigantes de Carolina of the Double-A Liga Superior of Puerto Rico, with his name adorning the team’s uniforms.

Legendary hip-hop artist Lil Wayne famously once said, “Athletes want to be rappers, rappers want to be athletes.” This applies to baseball, where a huge level of admiration between the two sides is evident.

You can start with this year’s World Baseball Classic. Daddy Yankee was selected as global ambassador for the tournament, with his song “Chispa” serving as the WBC’s anthem. Yankee, along with several other Puerto Rican mega artists such as Eladio Carrión, Anuel AA and Rauw Alejandro, came through Puerto Rico’s clubhouse at loanDepot Park in Miami, interacting with stars like and .

“It was great,” Lindor said. “These are people we admire and respect. People that have put Puerto Rico on a high platform. It’s great that we can have that bridge of communication with each other. They live the experience of baseball through us and we live the experience of music through them.”

Báez added: “It just shows that even though we are a small island, so many great people have come out of there. We’re all like a family.”

Latinos have risen to the top of the sport. Players like Lindor, Báez, and are superstars not only for dominating on the field with their supreme talent, but also for the flair with which they do so, something Lindor refers to as “Sabor Latino” or Latin Flavor.

“A lot of what we bring to the game comes from music,” Lindor said. “Not just artists from the last 15 or 20 years, but also people like Héctor Lavoe and all those who came 40 years ago. Those people have influenced not just us, but our parents, who passed that music on to us. It’s something that has always been in us.”

Latin artists identify with that Latin Flavor, which is why we’ve seen players such as Miguel Rojas, Santiago Espinal and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. make appearances in music videos like as “Súbelo” by Anuel AA and Eladio Carrión’s “Si Salimos” in recent years.

“From Sammy Sosa to Alex Rodriguez to now with guys like Tatis, [Juan] Soto, Acuña, Latinos have their own swagger playing baseball,” said Foreign Teck. “It’s something that is embedded into us from kids, especially if you’re from the Caribbean or South or Central America. The Latinos just have the power right now in baseball.”

Lindor’s style has been the subject of praise by Bad Bunny. The international superstar name-dropped him in “Ronca Freestyle,” which features the bar: "Jeter se retiró ahora el que los mata e' Lindor." (Jeter retired, now Lindor is the one killing them.)

“It brings a smile to my face,” Lindor said of hearing his name in a Bad Bunny song. “It is also emotional, because at the end of the day, you know those songs will never die. Songs like that will live on for the rest of our lives. Knowing we are influencing those artists and inspiring them like they inspire us is special.”

A’s right-hander Luis Medina draws inspiration from “Gladiador” by Eladio Carrión as his walkout song every time he takes the mound at the Oakland Coliseum.

“Eladio’s music talks a lot about what happened for him to be where he is today,” said Medina, a native of Nagua, Dominican Republic. “It’s a song that, when I’m listening to it while warming up, it transfers a lot of motivation inside me. It makes me feel where I came from. What I feel in that moment when I hear that song is something very special.”

The intertwining of baseball and music even shows up on the business side. A’s third baseman Jordan Diaz is represented by Bad Bunny-owned Rimas Sports, a division of Rimas Entertainment. Together, the management agency’s list of clients ranges from Espinal and Mets top prospect Ronny Mauricio to Eladio Carrión and Arcángel.

“That vehicle has given us the possibility to meet those artists behind the scenes,” said Diaz, who is also good friends with Manuel Turizo, a popular Colombian singer from his hometown of Montería. “They make a lot of sacrifices and it’s not easy to get to the top. Similarly in baseball, it’s not easy to get to the big leagues. We both have to learn to manage our emotions while performing in front of a large public.”

That relatability between players and artists is what makes such a strong connection, one that only grows as each advances in their respective profession. They understand one another’s grind. They lift each other up.

“There is a correlation,” Foreign Teck said. “Eladio and I did a song called ‘Air France’ and he goes, ‘Vladdy dice que yo sueno en to’ las cajas de bateo,’ which is saying, ‘Vladdy Jr. told me that every time he goes to the batting cages, my music is playing.’

“There’s an indirect thing with music and sports. … I would have loved to be a baseball player, and I’ve met players who would have loved to have been a singer or producer. We live vicariously through each other’s craft.”