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Cairo represents Hispanic community with pride

CINCINNATI -- The Hispanic community has come a long way from that April day in 1902, when Luis Castro suited up for the Philadelphia Athletics, becoming the first Latin American player to play in the modern era of Major League Baseball.

Of the 856 players listed on Opening Day rosters at the start of the 2012 season, 243 were born outside of the United States, marking the third-highest percentage of foreign players at 28.4 percent.

The game may be called the national pastime, but Reds infielder Miguel Cairo said one driving desire has led to the Latino community's success in the Majors.

"Something that we do over there is, we've got a passion," Cairo said. "The dream of every Latino boy or every guy that lives over there or any other country is to come here and play baseball."

Thirty-five years ago, Cairo was that little boy when he began playing baseball.

The Venezuela native grew up watching fellow countrymen like Omar Vizquel, Andres Galarraga and former Reds legend Dave Concepcion continue to break barriers in the baseball world.

As the U.S. celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Cairo, now a 17-year veteran, dons the same colors as his childhood idol in a career he calls "a dream come true."

"I never thought that I was going to play professional -- the dream of every young kid who wants to play in the big leagues," said Cairo, one of the 66 Venezuelans in the league. "Growing up, I used to watch them play, and it was amazing. Getting to know them and getting to play with them is an honor also."

Cairo's numbers may not light up the record books, but his accomplishments are certainly profound.

The 38-year-old has now played for nine clubs in his career and has fielded every position on the diamond besides pitcher, catcher and center field, but his most memorable moments are still ahead of him.

The utility man has filled in at first, second and third for the Reds in 66 games this season. A National League Central crown already clinched, the possibility of a World Series run is in the picture.

But all along the way, Cairo has never forgotten his origins. He stays in touch with his family members and friends back home, making visits when possible.

With the help of technology, Cincinnati is closer to Venezuela than the map might show.

"I've got friends and I've got family, they all watch," Cairo said. "If they're not watching on TV, they're watching on the computer and they see the highlights. It's kind of nice to go out there and know that a lot of Spanish people and Latinos are going to be watching baseball. It's nice to represent my country and the Latinos in general. I take pride in that."

Chicago White Sox, Miguel Cairo