OKC Dodgers: Organization comes together with Latino community through Cielo Azul
With his hands raised above his head, Fernando Valenzuela always looked to the sky.
It was a well-known routine for the former Los Angeles Dodgers star pitcher who captivated the city in the 1980s. His eyes-to-the-sky windup, humble demeanor and his special talent united the Latino community.
And that’s had an impact on Oklahoma City.
Last season, the OKC Dodgers united the Latino community locally by participating in the inaugural “Copa de la Diversion,” or Fun Cup, along with 32 other teams as part of a seasonlong initiative designed to embrace the culture and values that echo with the local Hispanic community.
They rebranded for eight games as Cielo Azul, or Blue Sky, and brought a new atmosphere to the ballpark. And they will rebrand for seven games this season — June 20-23 and July 19-21.
“Its intent was to really authentically engage, connect and entertain the Latino fan community,” OKC general manager and team president Michael Byrnes said. “This was going to create passion in our community, but this was so inclusive.”
OKC was named one of five finalists by Minor League Baseball for best implementation of the program in December. And the program helped Baseball America name the organization the Triple-A winner of the prestigious Bob Freitas Award.
The program was a hit, in more ways than one.
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The new hats were a top-10 seller for New Era. But, the Dodgers also gave back to the community.
OKC viewed the Latino Community Development Agency as a major influence, which led to a partnership. The Dodgers donated more than $5,500 to the LCDA through a special ticket offer that coincided with Celebracion Cielo Azul.
And throughout the eight games, the Dodgers truly embraced the community.
New food was offered — from chorizo burgers to Pambazo Sandwich to empanadas and more — along with in-game entertainment such as an appearance by Blue Demon Jr., a mariachi band and even bi-lingual public-address announcements.
“All of these elements go into creating a better open door to inviting members of the community out to enjoy,” Byrnes said.
But it all comes back to Valenzuela.
When the Dodgers were selected as a participant in the program, a focus group was formed to play an important role in the development, communication and integration of the brand into the community.
“I thought their attention to keeping true to team was a top focus,” Cinthya Allen, who works for AT&T Oklahoma, wrote in the Dodgers’ 2018 annual report. “However, even with this the team leadership was very open to understanding and learning more about cultural connections. It was clear they wanted to create a Latino focused brand image that was genuine and created greater inclusivity.”
That started by picking a name.
Cielo Azul came from three factors: Dodger blue, the Oklahoma sky and Valenzuela.
It was vital to include Dodger blue. The Oklahoma blue sky and the accent colors in the landscape also were represented. the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher — Oklahoma’s state bird — also was incorporated into the logo.
And respect was given to Valenzuela.
He looked to the sky for a reason before firing each pitch. It was legendary. It’s only appropriate the Dodgers honor that.
“It’s a fun nod to history,” Byrnes said.