After Cubs’ World Series Win, Javy Baez Emerges as a Symbol for Chicago’s Puerto Rican Community

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Yesterday’s game seven World Series win will be undoubtedly be etched into the historical memory of Chicagoans for generations to come, but for the city’s proud Puerto Rican community – centered around the northwestern neighborhood of Humboldt Park – the win may literally be etched into the the physical landscape of their neighborhood. Just two days before the Cubs took home the title of world champions, and in the midst of a still very uncertain outcome for the series, 26th ward alderman Roberto Maldonado proposed naming part of a local avenue after the Cubs’ Puerto Rican-born second baseman, Javier Baez.

Maldonado explained his reasoning in a brief Facebook post, where he called Baez an “incredible Chicago Cubs second baseman, competitor, and role model proudly representing Puerto Rico.” Indeed, over the course of this historical post-season, the 23-year-old native of Bayamón by way of Jacksonville, FL has emerged as one of the most electrifying and dynamic players on the Cubs already talented roster. But the significance of the bat-and-ball for Humboldt Park Puerto Ricans goes deeper than an emotional post-season rally or a fleeting world title.

Humboldt Park’s Paseo Boricua
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In fact, it wouldn’t even be the first neighborhood landmark dedicated to a Puerto Rican baseball icon, and a hypothetical Javy Baez Way would only be a few short blocks away from nearby Roberto Clemente High School. Christened in 1972, Clemente has developed a reputation for producing some of the state’s most talented baseball players, while also emerging as a hotbed for Puerto Rican nationalist activity due to its connections to the ongoing campaign to free political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.

Clemente also inspired the name of Humboldt Park’s iconic weekend softball leagues, whose teams typically bear the names of Puerto Rican towns and retain a competitive relationship with their counterparts on the island. Known for their high level of play, the leagues are a cherished symbol of community pride to this day and a fixture of the urban park from which the neighborhood takes its name. Their importance was even recognized with a special dedication at last year’s 37th Puerto Rican People’s Parade.

As of now, the proposed location of Javier Baez’s honorary street would fall on the western side of Luis Muñoz Marín Drive, which passes by the very ballfields where the Clemente leaguers play – complete with a miniature replica of Wrigley Field known as Little Cubs Field. Muñoz Marín, of course, was the architect of the Puerto Rican Commonwealth and is regarded as a hero by many Boricuas on and off the island. The fact that he soon may be sharing symbolic real estate with a young and hungry Puerto Rican ballplayer in one of the island’s most important stateside enclaves speaks volumes about the persistence of Puerto Rican identity, and the continued centrality of baseball in Boricua community survival.