An entire generation of sports fans is mourning the passing of ESPN’s Pedro Gomez.Screenshot: ESPNIf you’re of a certain age group — mainly if you were born in the mid to late 1990’s — Gomez was probably the first Latino you saw regularly report on ESPN. By definition, the late journalism legend was a pioneer for a multicultural community that has been granted minimal access to mainstream airwaves.Gomez arrived at ESPN in 2003. Not ESPN Deportes, though he was also a contributor there, but ESPN. The significance of the distinction mirrors what I had written last month amid Dan Le Batard’s departure from the network.The reason the English-speaking Latino voice is so vital is because, in our communities, we’re often encouraged by our friends and families that if we’re going to pursue sports media, ‘Why not get on ESPN Deportes?’ There’s nothing wrong with that, but what I often explain to others is that it limits our overall impact. Just because Black people are Black doesn’t mean they should only strive to be on BET or Revolt. For us, our ceiling shouldn’t be limited to Telemundo or Univision. That’s not to say our minority-owned platforms are insignificant, but in order to achieve social change, some people of color are needed to tear down the normalized white walls at established companies. It (should) provide an olive branch for others in our communities, bridging the gap toward a more inclusive media landscape. In our case, by only speaking Spanish, we won’t connect to other communities and remain secluded amongst our own, thus, limiting our overall influence.And in the case of Gomez, a Cuban-American icon, his impact was heightened because he not only crossed over to mainstream ESPN and had success, but he did so covering baseball when it still felt like America’s Pastime. Baseball wasn’t a regional sport in 2003 the way it’s since become. Millennial journalists, content creators, and fans grew up watching Gomez report on SportsCenter. We watched him sit in dugouts interviewing players for feature packages, we saw him shoot his stand-ups inside of baseball stadiums — just like the other reporters who didn’t look like him — and we saw some real windows into his passion.Like his trip to Cuba in 2016.Not everyone could fully comprehend the emotional experience of visiting their family’s homeland as the son of Cuban refugees. But because of reporters who broke through, like Gomez, and like Le Batard, a piece of you could relate, because their tireless work made it possible for you to follow in their footsteps.G/O Media may get a commissionThe love for Gomez matched the disorienting shock of the news. Tributes, memories, and acknowledgments poured out immediately upon the announcement of Gomez’s passing.Whom he touched became apparent throughout the night. Even as the Super Bowl pressed on, you felt the magnitude of Gomez’s untimely loss by simply scrolling through your distraught timeline.Now when you look up at ESPN, it’s becoming more possible for an Antonietta Collins, a Jorge Sedano, a Jessica Mendoza, or a Marly Rivera to be seen on your television reporting in English, and not being limited to only Deportes. It’s because of Gomez’s crossover that his impact was felt universally, and it’s because of his reach, visibility, and professionalism that many could follow in his footsteps in any way possible, whether or not you’re a Latino, and whether or not you loved baseball. Pedro Gomez, gone too soon, but he did his part. For a generation of Latinos in media, he was the first we watched on ESPN, and because of the network’s influence, even in 2003, the first some of us ever saw anywhere. .
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