How Tigers are growing Spanish broadcasts

Detroit Tigers

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Tigers have long been a popular team in Latin America, not just due to Miguel Cabrera but because of fellow Venezuelan greats Magglio Ordóñez, Carlos Guillén and Anibal Sánchez before him. Now, the team is expanding its reach to its Spanish-speaking fans with 22 Spanish-language broadcasts this season, starting with Opening Day on Thursday against Tampa Bay.

The announcement piggybacks on the success of the team’s first Spanish-language broadcast last summer during the club’s annual Fiesta Tigres celebration. This year’s games will air on terrestrial radio at AM 1270 in Detroit, and online via the MLB App worldwide or the Audacy app in Michigan.

The broadcasts will pair Tigers bilingual media relations coordinator Carlos Guillén (no, not the aforementioned former player) with Cuban-born former Tigers infielder Barbaro Garbey for home games. On the road, Guillén will work with veteran Venezuelan baseball reporter Mari Montes, who has chronicled Cabrera’s career over the years as well as many other Venezuelan stars.

Guillén, who also worked as a media relations coordinator for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, knows the Tigers as well as anyone behind a microphone. In addition to his work as a translator, interview coordinator and front-office liaison for the team’s Spanish-speaking players, he hosts a podcast, “Tigres VIP,” that features interviews in Spanish with Tigers players. The podcast is a valuable outlet for many Latino players who might feel more comfortable expressing themselves in their native language. 

Guillén also has a robust media resume. He previously worked as a host for ESPN Deportes in Miami as well as an international correspondent for CNN and other news networks. In addition, he worked with the Leones del Caracas of the Venezuelan winter league. While the Spanish-language broadcasts are a collaboration between the Tigers’ newly expanded broadcasting and corporate partnership departments, led by Ron Colangelo and Chris Coffman respectively, Guillén’s tireless work and extensive experience have proven critical in helping the effort get off the ground.

Garbey has a unique role in baseball history. A former member of the Cuban national team, he defected to the United States as part of the Mariel boatlift in 1980 and signed with Detroit that summer. He made his MLB debut with the Tigers on Opening Day in 1984 and played in 110 games for Detroit that season. He was the Tigers’ starting designated hitter for two games in the American League Championship Series and three games in the World Series. Though he played just two seasons with the Tigers and another with the Rangers in 1988, he made Michigan his home in his post-playing career and still lives in suburban Detroit. 

The Spanish radio schedule includes seven series, starting with all three games of the season-opening set against the Rays from March 30 to April 2. Also on the schedule are home series against the Mets (May 2-4), White Sox (May 26-28), Padres (July 21-23), Astros (Aug. 25-28) and the season-ending set against the Guardians (Sept. 29-Oct. 1). The Fiesta Tigres game on Aug. 5 against the Rays is also slated. 

While the expanded schedule coincides with Cabrera’s farewell season and includes key games for Miggy Watch — including three games against Cabrera’s former club, the Marlins, in Miami on July 28-30 — the Spanish-language broadcasts are not simply a play on Miggy’s retirement tour. On the contrary, the Tigers are hoping it’s just the start of an expansion as the team tries to reach more fans locally, nationally and globally. 

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the Hispanic and Latino communities made up 5.6 percent of Michigan’s population, up from 4.4 percent in 2010, a rise of more than 128,000 residents. In Wayne County, 6.6 percent of the population identified as Latino or Hispanic, up from 5.2 percent 10 years earlier. The percentage rose in all but two counties in Michigan, including from 3.5 to 4.8 percent in Oakland County, 4.0 to 5.6 percent in Washtenaw County, and 9.7 to 11.4 percent in Kent County.

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