Mattatuck Museum celebrates legacy of Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente

WATERBURY — The Mattatuck Museum invites guests to enjoy cocktails and learn about the many contributions of Puerto Rican baseball legend Roberto Clemente on Friday, June 16.

“(Clemente) was such an important figure for the Puerto Rican community,” said Keffie Feldman, chief curator at the Mattatuck Museum. “He made incredible contributions to baseball, he left this humanitarian legacy and it’s clear what an important figure he is and continues to be.”

The Cocktails and Conversations gathering on June 16 is a small, intimate event at 5:30 p.m. featuring a sneak preview of the museum’s “Roberto Clemente: Life and Legacy” exhibit and two original craft cocktails from Litchfield Distillery. State Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr., collector and contributor to the exhibition, will also speak about his collection and Clemente at the event.

“We’re just really excited to be able to highlight the collection of representative Reyes and to be able to tell the story of Roberto Clemente to the community,” Feldman said. 

“I think that this event is really a great space for the community to gather in and have discussions around their identity, the impact that large figures within your individual communities have on individuals,” said Jason Foberg, the director of education at the Mattatuck Museum. “I think that it will provide a unique perspective on Roberto Clemente and the impact that he has had here in Waterbury because I think there’s a lot that people don’t know.”

The exhibit highlights and celebrates the life and legacy of Clemente, best known for playing 18 seasons of Major League Baseball as a right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clemente was also a humanitarian and was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. He died the previous year in the crash of a plane delivering supplies to earthquake devastated Nicaragua.

“We have such a large Puerto Rican community here in Waterbury,” Foberg said. “This exhibition on Roberto Clemente, who has had a very lasting legacy and that community, is really, really important, and I think it will give people an opportunity to see someone from the Puerto Rican community highlighted individually and see the impact that this legacy has had on the community, both the baseball community and the humanitarian community around the world.”

All the objects in the exhibit, including awards, bobbleheads and more, come from Reyes’ personal collection. Because Reyes frequently travels to Puerto Rico, many of the objects on display come from the island, according to Feldman.

Everything in the exhibit is organized by chronology, from his early days, his legacy in baseball, his humanitarian past, and how he has been incorporated into pop culture through memorabilia. The exhibit will be up until Aug. 27.

“I am excited for people to explore the exhibition during the exhibition portion of the evening,” Foberg said. “I feel like there are a lot of different objects that will resonate with people … Also, for me, it’s also a great representation of people collecting things, those things being valuable to them, and also being able to be on display at the museum. So, it kind of shows that everything that is important to you can be important to other people as well.”

In addition to the exhibit, two owners from Tater Baseball, a Waterbury-based and Hispanic-owned baseball bat manufacturer for MLB, will describe the process of creating a bat for attendees. The manufacturing company representatives will showcase an example of a bat at every step of the manufacturing process and speak to guests about what it’s like creating bats for professional baseball players. Also, there will be a question-and-answer portion of the evening with the guest speakers. 

“I think a lot of people don’t even realize that (baseball) exists in our manufacturing here in Waterbury, and they do supply some major leaguers with that,” Foberg said. “So I think it’s going to be a great night of learning about more new things about Roberto Clemente and also the Waterbury industry and its impact that it still has on major league baseball and the kind of connection between the two.”

Foberg said Cocktails and Conversations is a sneak peek into the exhibition. Still, the exhibit’s official opening, along with the museum’s other exhibits, will be Sunday, June 18, in a day-long event featuring free hotdogs from Frankie’s Family Restaurant and various games and art activities for guests. The Sunday event also kicks off the museum’s summer programs.

“I’m really excited to get that community feedback,” Feldman said. “So what are the things that they’re most interested in talking about during the question and answer? What are the things that resonate most with them? Like, when creating an exhibition, we can do as much kind of planning and preparation and think about what you know as what’s going to resonate, but it’s really that moment where people come and experience it that you can see what you know, what works, what doesn’t.”

Tickets for the Friday event are $20 for the general public and $15 for Museum members. Tickets can be purchased on the museum’s website.  The museum is located at 144 W Main St. in Waterbury.


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