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Texas committed to Spanish broadcasts

Texas committed to Spanish broadcasts

ARLINGTON -- Spanish broadcaster Eleno Ornelas has a job with the Texas Rangers, but he works for the community.

He spreads the Rangers' message as the play-by-play man with partner Jose Guzman when he is in the radio booth at Ameriquest Field. When he's not, he can be found at area schools spreading a message of hope.

"In my life, I saw [that] a lot of my friends did not have a lot help from their parents or guidance, and I saw what happened to them," said Ornelas, 48. "I want to see more and more Latinos and people of all races have success in their lives. Sometimes kids at a young age don't know what they want and are uncertain about staying in school or not. A little direction and a little guidance can go a long way."

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Ornelas found his direction early. Born in Juarez, Mexico, he began to follow Major League Baseball at the age of 10 while listening to legendary Spanish broadcaster Buck Canel on NBC's Cabalgata Deportiva Gillette. He was a decent player growing up in Mexico and El Paso, Texas, but real talent rested in his voice and describing the action on the field.

He is also known to do quite a few impressions, and if you catch him at the right moment, he'll sing a song from his childhood.

"I can still sing the song from Cabalgata Deportiva Gillette," said Ornelas, in his sixth season with the Rangers. "Buck was the first to do it. He opened to doors for all of us today."

In a theme that would resurface years later, Ornelas called his first Rangers game on the final day of the 1999 season, and he did it alone. It was a tryout of sorts as he sat in the radio booth speaking into a handheld tape recorder. He presented the production to the Rangers and was hired to call games in Spanish for the 2000 season.

"Not only is Eleno a great broadcaster, he is a great person," said Guzman, who joined Ornelas in 2003 as the color analyst. "He has helped me develop as a broadcaster, and I think I am able to add my expertise as a former player to help him. We make a great team."

The Rangers are one of five teams in Major League Baseball who have a live Spanish broadcast for all 81 road games. The Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and Florida Marlins, all in the National League, travel two broadcasters to every game. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the only other American League team that has two Spanish broadcasters -- a play-by-play man and color analyst -- who travel with the team.

Only Ornelas travels with the Rangers. He is the play-by-play man, color analyst, engineer and Spanish liaison for the club. Ornelas' main concern is maintaining his voice for all 162 games. He is proud to be a part of the Rangers' staff and have the platform to share his passion for the game with listeners in Texas. Being able to send a positive message to children in English and Spanish is a bonus.

"It is a different situation than most, but it's been good and it's been a good challenge," Ornelas said. "By doing games by myself, I don't look at it as a hard thing. I look at it as the beginning of a path for guys who will come behind me."

The men who work with Ornelas on other teams' Spanish radio broadcasts notice him on the road and have varying opinions on his situation. Many are happy to see another Spanish broadcaster travel with the team. Others wonder how long Ornelas and his voice can handle the workload as the play-by-play man at home and the everything-man on the road.

"I see a big question mark," Angels Spanish broadcaster Ivan Lara said. "Before the Rangers did Spanish and had two announcers. That's the standard to have two announcers broadcasting games in the big leagues."

"Just like English, I think Spanish broadcasts should have two voices," said Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, who calls games in Spanish for the Giants and the Mariners. "It's not right for fans, and you have to consider the person doing it. I see Eleno there all by himself working so hard, and I know it's not easy. It's not easy with two people"

Traveling with two broadcasters is easier said than done. The Angels, like the Dodgers, are located in Southern California, one of the most competitive markets for Hispanics in the nation. Neither the Giants nor the Mariners have a traveling Spanish broadcast. Of the 14 teams that regularly broadcast games in Spanish, only a few claim to make a profit (more money allows for the ability for traveling broadcasters). A club's market, sponsorship and commitment are among the many variables that contribute to a Spanish broadcast's success. Not surprisingly, the value of the Spanish broadcast varies with each team.

The Rangers are pleased with their progress and are making a concerted effort to increase their visibility in the Hispanic communities of North Texas and use the Spanish broadcast as an outreach to its target audience. The club claims to make a profit on the Spanish broadcast and features such major companies as Dr Pepper, Dodge, Coca-Cola, Southwest Airlines and Ameriquest Mortgage Company as sponsors. Additionally, the club is proactive year-round with numerous programs and initiatives designed to reach the Hispanic community.

"In a perfect world, we would travel two broadcasters, but it is a matter of funding," said Karin Morris, Rangers director of new marketing. "We are one of five teams that have any announcers that travel, and we are happy with where we are right now, and we are really excited about the future."

It could be a bright future. The Rangers recently renewed their broadcast contract with Univision Radio through the 2007 season and extended the contracts of Ornelas and Guzman. The signal for the broadcasts for 2006 has been upgraded from 5,000 watts to 50,000 watts.

Moreover, Rangers owner Tom Hicks has vowed to become more involved with reaching the Hispanic audience and bring more Hispanic fans to the park. Hicks recognizes the benefits of successfully tapping into the Hispanic market of North Texas via the Spanish broadcast and a grassroots campaign. More Rangers fans equals more money for the club.

"It's something I think we are just barely scratching the surface on, and we need to do a better job," Hicks said. "We are getting some continuity and some consistency, but we need to do a better job of marketing ourselves to the Hispanic market. I pound my fist on the table about it all the time, and we will get better for the growth of our Dallas-Fort Worth fan base."

Ornelas sees the benefits as well. He has no complaints.

"I love this job, and I'm going to do it as long as they allow me to do to it," he said. "It's a privilege and a dream come true to work in baseball. That's why I talk to kids. I want their dreams to come true, too."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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