Baseball's All-Star Game was played in Minnesota for the first time in 1965. There were 53 players designated as All-Stars, including those replaced due to injury. Eight of these players came from Latin America and 14 were American-born Black players.

Eleven of the Black players represented the National League. In 2014, I had a chance to ask Willie Mays if the '65 team with all those wonderful Black stars was the greatest ever assembled.

"What made that team any different than the ones we put on the field for quite a few years?" Mays replied. "Those were all the Greatest Team Ever."

The advantage in Black talent had favored the National League since Jackie Robinson hurdled the racial barrier in 1947. About the time the American League closed the gap, America's best Black athletes started looking elsewhere.

Those extraordinary talents are now the heartbeat of America's two most popular men's pro leagues: the NFL and the NBA.

Last Tuesday, the All-Star Game was played in Seattle. Counting injured original selections and replacements for various reasons, there were 77 All-Stars. Seven were American-born Black players and 29 were from the Dominican Republic (12), Cuba (eight), Venezuela (six), Curacao (two) and Puerto Rico (one).

Where would the Grand Old Game find itself today without this Spanish-speaking godsend to its talent pool?

That's my question for you, Alfonso Fernandez, play-by-play voice of the 50 Spanish broadcasts of Twins games from the press box at Target Field.

"I do have an opinion on that," he said. "There are so many options for the best athletes in the United States … endless options. But for young kids in the Dominican Republic, in Venezuela, the goal is to get to one of baseball's academies. For the best athletes, it is all baseball. Hours after hours, playing baseball, trying to get better at baseball."

Then what must baseball do to regain a foothold in your home country, Alfonso, in Mexico, where you were raised in Guadalajara … playing mostly soccer?

"Soccer will always be enormous in Mexico, but do not give up on baseball," Fernandez said. "The president there, Mr. [Andres Manuel] López Obrador, is a huge fan of baseball. He is opening academies for more young kids to play baseball."

There was excitement when Mexico reached the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic in March. Thrilling, but not the zenith for baseball excitement among Mexicans — in the homeland, or transplanted.

Fernandez was living in L.A., working at a radio station, when "Fernandomania" first struck with the Dodgers in 1981.

"To be honest, before Fernando Valenzuela arrived, the Mexican population in L.A. — and it is huge — wasn't that interested in baseball, in the Dodgers," Fernandez said. "And now, four decades later, because of Fernando, they are still Dodgers fans — and their grandkids are Dodgers fans."

Fernandez and his wife, Rosalia, later bought a radio station in North Carolina. "That turned out bad," he said. "We went back to Guadalajara. We came to the Twin Cities on a mission for our church, to work with people overcome by drink."

They stayed longer than expected. Alfonso started working in a factory in Burnsville. He used his play-by-play experience in L.A. — Lakers and Rams — to land jobs doing play-by-play Spanish broadcasts for the Timberwolves and the Vikings.

"I love all sports," he said. "I used to go to Kings hockey games. I think I was the only Mexican in the building. Tickets were cheap. Marcel Dionne, Rogie Vachon, Butch Goring … a very exciting team."

Here in Minnesota, Andy Price from the Twins came to Fernandez 18 years ago and recruited him to broadcast eight games in Spanish — basically, as an experiment.

"I asked if I would be doing the games alone and was told, 'No, we have Mr. Tony Oliva to be your partner.' It has been a beautiful 18 years," Fernandez said.

"What I do hear from people is that we should have more Spanish broadcasts. We are on the Twins website now. I miss being on the Spanish radio station, but we do reach much farther on the internet.

"Donovan Solano with the Twins, he's from Colombia, and we've heard from people there who appreciate listening to us. They also would like more games."

Growing baseball in Colombia. Keep going, Alfonso.

Major League Baseball needs all the help it can get with the talent pool, since the NFL and NBA keep stealing the Willie Mayses of today.