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Barons advocate for local nonprofit helping Latinos

¡HICA! among well-deserving winners for MiLB CommUNITY grant
Members of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama take part in Los Barons Night at Regions Field. (Birmingham Barons)
@brianjstultz
August 25, 2020

Adjusting to a new country and language can be rough, even in normal times. Add a worldwide pandemic to the mix and those challenges become more difficult. Enter Hannah Echols, marketing and promotions coordinator for the Birmingham Barons, who knew exactly the group she wanted to nominate for Minor League

Adjusting to a new country and language can be rough, even in normal times. Add a worldwide pandemic to the mix and those challenges become more difficult.

Enter Hannah Echols, marketing and promotions coordinator for the Birmingham Barons, who knew exactly the group she wanted to nominate for Minor League Baseball's CommUNITY grant. Given the fact that the focus was on nonprofits promoting unity and supporting diverse communities, her mind quickly turned to the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), a community development and advocacy organization that "champions economic equality, civic engagement and social justice for Latino and immigrant families" throughout the state.

“When I read the criteria for this grant, I felt like ¡HICA! really met those directly," Echols said. "I mean, it's one thing for someone to come to a new place and try to start over, but it's a whole other when they're in a completely different country, they don't know any English or barely any English. They don't know how basic systems work, how the government works.”

Established in 1999, ¡HICA! helps bridge those gaps with programs that assist with everything from gaining citizenship to helping launch a business to managing money and more.

Barons players sign merchandise that is auctioned off to support the organization.

The Barons know the foundation well, having been partners for seven years. The two organizations work together closely on events at Regions Field such as Los Barons Night, when the team celebrates Latino heritage with special jerseys, mariachi bands, salsa dancers, public announcements in Spanish and more. The players enjoy getting involved as well, signing merchandise to auction off for ¡HICA! and meeting with volunteers during a pregame event.

“They enjoy it every year,” Echols said. “And it's a fun night, too. From the music to the graphics to the jerseys, everything's really centered around it.”

As for the idea behind the grant itself, Minor League Baseball sought out groups helping to create unity within their communities that, unfortunately, haven’t had the escape of going out to the ballpark this season.

“Usually, there is baseball being played to show that our ballparks are a safe space and that all are welcome,” said Courtney Nehls, Minor League Baseball director for community engagement. “Obviously, we can't see that this year, but we wanted to recognize organizations in our communities that do that, that promote a positive influence within the communities in a diverse way.”

One of the five winners of the $500 grant, given on behalf of MiLB Charities, ¡HICA! will use the money to maintain its advocacy and support for those who need it during these difficult times. Given her experience with the organization, Echols is certain that the grant will be put to excellent use because of the important mission of the organization.

“They just want to make sure everyone has the resources they need to really set roots here, grow here and be a full member of this community,” Echols said.

Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.