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'Como familia': Phillies roster could be majority Latino in 2017

The Phillies' top prospects are vying to become part of one of Major League Baseball's most Hispanic ball clubs.

Phillies prospectsElniery Garcia andVictor Anaro don't speak English, so they had to answer questions through a translator.

And even though sportswriters don't speak fluent Spanish, reporters at Citizens Bank Park for a recent prospect media availabilityheard at least one word they recognized before it was swappedinto English — "familia."

Even Jorge Alfaro, the Colombian catcher whose English is getting better and better, uttered the word, but cleaned things up to say, "even in spring training we are all together, we are like a family. We are pushing for everybody. It's really nice to be on a team where everybody cares about you."

Alfaro was talking both about the Phillies front office and coaching staff, and his teammates.

The Phillies suited up 12 players of Hispanic descentin July of last season — 48 percent of their 25-man roster. In comparison, the percentage of players who were born outside the United States on 2016 Opening Dayrosterswas 27.5 percent.

Philadelphia's leaders last year in batting average (Cesar Hernandez, Venezuela), stolen bases (Odubel Herrera, Venezuela), home runs, RBI(bothMaikel Franco, Dominican Republic), ERA (Hertor Neris, Dominican Republic) andsaves (Jeanmar Gomez, Venezuela) were all Latin players.

Which makes the Phillies' Hispanic flavor not only an unavoidableattribute of the team's character, but also makes the franchise an appealing destination for prospects like Garcia.

"If I can be on ateam fullof Latinos, it is great," said the pitcher who went 12-6 with a2.68 ERA in Clearwater last year."To be part of the same team, we can do great things together."

Garcia hails from the Dominican Republic, and fellow Clearwaterpitching prospectAnaro(who isfrom Mexico) feels right at home as he tries to make the same leap from Single-A ball to the higher rungs of the minors.

"It would be a great experience if I could be part of this team," Anarocontinued, through a translator (which MLB required each team to hire in 2016)."It feelslike family. When you play with so many Latino players it feels like brothers. And even the American players help you, too."

The 2017 Opening Day roster could have as many as 13 Hispanic players on it, potentially making the team majority Latino.

After the recent jettison of American stars like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard, the team is turning a new page and has new leadership. And it's plainly obvious the Latin American stars are the future of the historic ballclub.

The Philliesrecently made their star outfielder Herrera a rich man, guaranteeing the former Rule 5 Draft Pick $30.5 million. This gives the current face of the franchise five more seasons in South Philly.

And to prepare for the future, the team is continuing to invest in it's Latin American Program, one that has fueled players likeFranco, Freddy Galvis(Venezuela), Hernandez, Neris andCarlos Ruiz (Panama) to the big leagues. They signed some of South and Central America's best 16-year-old players to deals earlier in the winter.

A whopping 14 of the Phillies top 30 prospects hail from somewhere in Latin America — so the trend is not likely to change anytime soon.

So perhaps Phillies fans should learn the phrase"somos familia," as the team continues to rebuild and reach toward another era of contending.

And get ready to dance toLatin tunes throughout the lineup as the team's walk-up music.

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