Photo courtesy Anaheim AngelsAmerica's baseball team features a Latino as its biggest superstar. America's baseball team boasts a deep-pocketed boss who cares more about fans than revenue. America's baseball team made the playoffs with their hustle, teamwork and grit.

The St. Louis Cardinals? Please. The New York Yankees? Been there, done that. The Boston Red Sox? Now you're just being ridiculous.

No, America's Baseball Team is your Anaheim Angels.

Granted, the local nine proved a playoff bust, as the Boston Red Sox completed a first-round, three-game sweep of the American League West champs on Oct. 8. But ever since Phoenix businessman Arte Moreno purchased the Angels from Disney last year, the team has coalesced not only into one of the most fan-friendly franchises in professional sports, but also into a metaphor for the new America, the America where Latinos—now the country's largest minority—further weave themselves into the civic fabric.

For example, Moreno is American professional sports' first Latino owner, yet he's made sure in his first full season as Angels jefeto place his priorities on baseball, not race. Moreno's first move last year when buying the Angels—or, as they're known in Spanish, los Serafines—wasn't handing out sombreros as souvenirs but lowering beer and ticket prices. Soon after, he slashed the cost of team merchandise. And Moreno long ago left the confines of his private box to roam Angel Stadium during games, taking notes as the Halos faithful praised and criticized. Disregard the support for Dubya and the criticisms of some local Latino leaders who grumble that Moreno should be more prominent in the Latino community: he runs a fucking ball club, after all, not a bloody nonprofit.

And, like any American business that wants to succeed, the Angels depended on imported Latino workers, although these weren't cheap. This past winter, Moreno spent $146 million to sign the premier free agents available: pitcher Kelvim Escobar of Venezuela and pitcher Bartolo Colon, left fielder Jose Guillen and right fielder Vladimir Guerrero of the Dominican Republic. The four contributed mightily to the Angels' late-season playoff surge—one MSNBC.com commentator argued that “dollar-for-dollar, it might have been the best free-agent investments ever made in baseball.” Other Latinos, like the clutch-hitting Puerto Rican catching siblings Bengie and José Molina and the fireball-throwing Venezuelan reliever Francisco Rodríguez played key roles throughout the season as well. In the playoffs, the fortune of the Angels rested on this Spanish-speaking sextet, and since they struggled, so did the Angels: although Guerrero and the Molinas played well—didn't you love Vlad's Game 3-tying grand slam?—Guillen was suspended from the playoffs after his late-season altercation with manager Mike Scioscia, Colón and Rodríguez struggled in Game 2's 8-3 loss, and Escobar was rocked in the Game 3 loss.

But best of all, the Angels are now a wicked curve to the predictions of xenophobes who insist Latinos will divide and ruin the United States. Let's look at the facts: home attendance at Angel Stadium for 2004 topped 3 million fans for only the second time in Angels history. Kids of all ethnicities proudly wore Guerrero jerseys and jostled for Moreno's autograph. Most important, the Angels are now consistent winners, something inconceivable throughout the club's cursed 44-year history. And if the Angels success story could happen in Orange County—America's most famously Republican area—then it's safe to say that los Estados Unidos is in pretty good shape.

A version of this commentary originally aired on the Oct. 8 broadcast of NPR'sDay to Day program. GA*******@OC******.COM

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