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Bill Kulik (left) and Rickie Ricardo at Lincoln Financial Field.
Bill Kulik (left) and Rickie Ricardo at Lincoln Financial Field.

Rickie Ricardo, Tico Sports deliver the Águilas en Español

The Hispanic fan base is rapidly expanding thanks to the Spanish radio broadcasts.

By Jillian Oddo

Las Águilas translates to "the Eagles" in English. Las Águilas in Spanish means so much more to the Hispanic community and is a traditional name for Spanish sports teams.

"Whether it's in soccer or another sport around the Hispanic world, to be the Eagles, to be las Águilas is a symbol of a lot of pride, power, and significance," said Rickie Ricardo, Spanish radio play-by-play voice for the Philadelphia Eagles.

We know all Eagles fans wear their love for the team proudly on their chest; they don't keep it a secret. Fans are proud to be fans. Over the past decade, the growth of Hispanic Eagles fans has stretched across the globe. A huge contribution to that expansion is thanks to Tico Sports, a bilingual company producing Spanish language sports streams, and Ricardo. Bringing the electrifying energy from Lincoln Financial Field into Hispanic households, where English might not be their first language, allows families to fully embrace the sport and the Eagles.

"I carry the banner of having Hispanic blood. I'm proud to be a leader in the community and proud to be the bridge between the Hispanic community and the general market," said Ricardo, who has been the Spanish play-by-play announcer for the Eagles since 2011.

"One of the most important things about Latinos is that they're multi-generational households and many times it's a combination of English, Spanish, and Spanglish spoken in a household," explained CiCi Rojas, co-founder of Tico Sports. "It's also a unifier, it brings family and friends together. Many of them are familiar with Spanish soccer broadcasts and they're used to that energy level that you would hear in Spanish for soccer calls. You get that from football too. You get the same kind of enthusiasm from the sport with Spanish language broadcasts. It's that excitement and energetic broadcast that those fans enjoy."

Tico Sports partners with professional and collegiate sports teams to bring live game Spanish broadcasts to Latino audiences. Breaking into the business field, Tico Sports was founded by Rojas and her husband, Oscar Monterroso. In 2016, they signed their first contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

"One of the reasons we wanted to do this was because we felt like the Latino community deserved a quality broadcast, one that provided access throughout the season too, and not just on gameday. We wanted to capture behind-the-scenes video of something as simple as how the crews remove snow on a gameday," said Rojas, as they have a bilingual social media network to show their audience how hectic gamedays can be.

"Tico is a Hispanic company that is proving to the rest of the world that we can do a quality broadcast in Spanish. Tico has all the equipment, talent, and they have the drive," Ricardo added. "Everything is top-notch, nothing second class about them. They're a class organization. The NFL is so big, and Hispanics have really adopted the National Football League. Every year there are more and more Hispanic fans."

While Tico Sports focuses on producing quality broadcasts for the Latino community, oftentimes Spanish language livestreams are seen as mediocre compared to English language streams. Throughout the years, Tico Sports has shown how high quality its content is. On Thursday night, listen for yourself on anywhere in the United States on a desktop computer.

"I am quite proud of being a pioneer as far as crossover is concerned. My whole goal has always been, since I grew up in English language radio and was trained by some of the best ever, was to bring that quality and credibility to Spanish language radio," Ricardo said.

It has been an interesting broadcasting career for Ricardo, who started out in radio when he was 18 years old as a DJ. Several years later, Ricardo, one of the top-rated DJs in New York, spun out of music. Ricardo started working closely with the Florida Marlins, it was his first sports and Spanish radio gig. In 2007, Philadelphia came calling, and he began doing Spanish radio play-by-play for the Phillies. Then fast forward four years, Ricardo became the Spanish voice of the Eagles. In 2014, the New York Yankees hired Ricardo for their Spanish radio broadcasts.

"I am humbled and proud to be the Spanish language voice of two of the most iconic franchises in pro sports," Ricardo said.

In Philadelphia, Ricardo met his broadcast partner, Bill Kulik, in 2007. Kulik, a color commentator, owned the rights to the Philadelphia Phillies Spanish radio broadcast. Ricardo and Kulik moved their talent across the street in 2011 and to this day sit side-by-side in their booth at Lincoln Financial Field.

When Tico Sports was launching, they used their platform to educate Latino football fans. While soccer is a prominent sport for the Spanish community, Tico Sports had to provide its audience an in-depth look into the ins and outs of football.

"Breaking the game down from an educational standpoint was really rewarding because we not only educated ourselves in the process, more importantly we were educating our fan base," Rojas said.

Tico Sports is currently working with three NFL teams (Eagles, Chiefs, and Jaguars), one MLB team (Kansas City Royals), and two colleges (University of Nebraska, University of Kansas). With the Latino population expanding in the U.S., Rojas saw a need for more Spanish language streams. While some teams have asked Tico Sports to do Spanish broadcasts it has to be the right fit for them to venture into a new market.

"Latinos, they love sports, more than any demographic. When you look at trends in Latino community sports, they consume more sports content than almost any other group and at a fast rate," continued Rojas. "We love digital consumption, we're always on our phones, and one of the main things we're consuming is sports. Some of the teams have come to us and if it made sense and if it was a great fit, we wanted to pursue it. We've been very intentional with the teams we take on."

Ricardo has seen the growth of Spanish broadcasts firsthand. He is still the one and only Spanish play-by-play announcer for the Eagles.

"I'm proud to say that in my 10 years as an Eagles broadcaster I've seen the birth of a lot of the Spanish broadcasts for other franchises," said Ricardo. "These young guys have come up to me and said, 'Hey, we look up to you. You're the leader of the pack here.' I'm proud to carry that banner around the league."

Rojas knows the struggles of starting a company but add being a person of color, there are even more obstacles she had to overcome. To get Tico Sports off the ground, it was all a learning process for Rojas and her team.

"A lot of small businesses that are minority owned don't necessarily have the advantages of a mentor to help guide them through the unknowns. There were some challenges that we had to go through, we had to experience them so that we could become better and learn as we go," Rojas explained. "There's a lot of grit and willingness you must have to take on the challenges you're going to go through, but the reward will be worth it."

Looking into the future, Rojas is hoping to partner with 15 to 20 teams in the next five years. As more and more Spanish broadcasts bloom, Ricardo believes all 32 NFL teams will have a Spanish language broadcast.

"The growth and popularity of this franchise and the NFL will continue to grow as the NFL reaches out to the entire Hispanic community around the world. I salute Roger Goodell and the National Football League for the extent of their outreach to the community," Ricardo said. "The community has answered back by giving you crowds when they play in Mexico, and the amount of support that the league has around all of Latin America, you can see it."

For the past 10 years, Ricardo has brought all of the Eagles home games into thousands of homes not only in the United States, but around the world.

"We've had so much positive reaction from all over Latin America. There were Eagles fan clubs popping up all over Mexico and South America, in places you wouldn't believe," Ricardo said. "They would reach out to me through social media to say they listen. I've done Eagles preview shows, and I've gone on sports talk shows to specifically talk about the Eagles, all over Mexico, South America, and Central America."

With 40 years of broadcasting under his belt, Ricardo grew up in New Jersey and Midnight Green painted his world. It was a dream come true for Ricardo when he became the Spanish voice of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ricardo and Tico Sports are both excited to see the growth of Spanish broadcasts.

"Tico has been wonderful to me. I'm excited to watch the growth of the company, as it develops, year after year," Ricardo continued. "I'm proud to work with the Philadelphia Eagles, and I hope this relationship continues for a very long time."

"He has been incredible. Not only has he been a great announcer for the Philadelphia community, but he's been a great mentor for some of our young broadcasters," Rojas said proudly. "They're always impressed when they hear his name and they know that he's well known in the Latino sports community. He's been a true asset for us and is an incredible role model in the Latino community."

As Hispanic Heritage Month winds down on October 15, Ricardo and Rojas know how important it is to honor their roots and spotlight their community. Being able to work with these prominent franchises allows them to amplify the voice of the Hispanic population around the world.

"I'm very proud to be of Cuban descent. What I think I've been able to do in my years, with both the Eagles and the Yankees, is bring a voice to the Hispanic community," Ricardo said. "I want to let the rest of the world know the Hispanic community is very large and powerful. We're proud to be part of the American dream."

"I lovingly call it Hispanic hysteria month because there are so many events that are happening in our communities, not just here but all over the country," said Rojas. "They're trying to shine a light on the good work that's happening in our communities, nonprofits, and schools. That's what we've been able to do and will continue to do."

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