Since Cuba's Esteban Bellan made his debut for the Troy Haymakers of the National Association in 1871, Latin Americans have played a large role in the major leagues. Nearly 15 percent of big league rosters are made up of Latinos, while the region's colorful and competitive winter leagues have been a proving ground for up-and-coming major league players and managers.
Early Latin American stars were barred purely because of the color of their skin from playing in the major leagues. Players such as Jose Mendez and Martin Dihigo (the only player elected to the U.S., Cuban and Mexican halls of fame) made their marks on the Negro Leagues, turning the leagues' barnstorming tours into major attractions in many Caribbean countries. This history of the players and events that make up the rich tradition of Latin American baseball gives a unique insight to this long-neglected area of baseball.