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Does MLB discriminate against Haitians?

Mar 9, 2010, 1:15 PM EDT

Nick Collias, who covers the Spanish language media for MLB Trade Rumors sent me a story the other day that I haven’t seen anyone pick up anywhere.  You can read it in Spanish here.  I couldn’t, so Nick was nice enough to translate it for me.

The gist: MLB has a policy
of not allowing Haitian players to attend team academies in the
Dominican Republic–and, hence, to not get anywhere near the major
league prospect system. The reason is ostensibly that the players
aren’t able to have their backgrounds or papers verified easily, what
with Haiti being Haiti and all. But a couple of coaches quoted in the article think it’s unfair and discriminatory, because many Venezuelan
and Cuban players in the same situation don’t get nearly the same level
of scrutiny.  Some translated text:

Andres “Chaca” Martinez, Sixto de la Cruz, and Juan Pena
Reynoso, three coaches in the Juan Pablo Darte Olympic Center, said recently
they were obliged to send away several promising Haitian prospects in excellent
condition because no one wanted to evaluate them.

“Last week I had to send away four, due to that when I
wanted to introduce them to several scouts, they refused to see them, and when
asked for a reason they told me that unfortunately, they were not allowed to
see Dominican-Haitian players,” revealed Martinez. De La Cruz said he had to
dismiss two Haitian pitchers who threw 90 to 91 mph for the same reason.

“They are guys with good physiques, holding passports and
Haitian birth certificates, but the scouts told me they don’t see them because
the investigators from the MLB office here will not allow any Haitian players
through,” said De La Cruz. He added, “It is unfair that the young men of that
neighboring country are denied the opportunity given to Cubans and Venezuelans,
who are signed without investigation.”

Reynoso considers the treatment of the Haitians
discriminatory and unjust, saying they are human beings worthy of better

I don’t know nearly enough about identity documentation issues in Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela vs. Cuba to know if these coaches’ complaints are legitimate or not. If all things are equal, and if baseball is treating Haitian prospects — such as they are — differently, that’s a problem.  If, however, there is something inherently less-trustworthy about Haitian documents than there is about, say, Cuban documents, such differences would be understandable.

I’ll offer this much though: between the lack of diplomatic ties with Cuba and the Haitain earthquake, one would suspect that checking back with the issuer of the documents would be equally impossible, so there’s not a lot of cause, I wouldn’t think, for distinguishing between Cuban and Haitian documents.

Either way, this is a story that may be worth looking into more deeply.

  1. Jonny5 - Mar 9, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    Well add it to the list “Why it really, really sucks to be Haitian”

  2. Old Gator - Mar 9, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    The Dominican Republic doesn’t want a flood of refugees pouring over its borders and, the recent earthquake tragedy aside, because Haiti has been a political and economic basket case since the French pulled out two hundred years ago or so, the Dominican has always been tough on Haitians trying to enter the country. So the problem is much older than, and transcends, baseball issues.
    But the Haitians have recourse to other means of redress. Don’t mess with the lwas. They want to hear you scream.

  3. Bear - Mar 9, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Has there been Haitain players in the MLB, or minor leagues??? Ever?

  4. lar @ wezen-ball - Mar 9, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    It wouldn’t be a shock at all. It’s pretty common for a larger, more prosperous country to look down and actively discriminate against anyone from it’s poorer neighbor. Germany and Poland, for example. I don’t know all the nuances, but the gist I got from staying out with my German family is that Germany does everything it can to keep Poles from overrunning Germans’ jobs/businesses. That may be a little exaggerated, but I don’t doubt the general idea. Ron could probably speak more about this.
    Considering just how poor Haiti is, it would not be shocking at all to learn that the DR tries their hardest to keep Haitians away – baseball included (and especially).

  5. YX - Mar 9, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    So Haitians can’t get into Baseball school in Dominican that’s run by American? I mean, there are only such much one can chalk up as discriminating.

  6. Kanye West - Mar 9, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    Bud Selig doesn’t care about Haitan-people.

  7. Jonny5 - Mar 9, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    I remember an issue where the entire Haitian football team “defected” when they made it to the US. I don’t even think they played the game first…

  8. Ryan - Mar 9, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Dude, how do you pronounce your name?

  9. Joe L - Mar 9, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    That is spot on. For example, currently, Haitians born in the D.R. are registered in a different birth book at hospitals, and the Dominican congress has approved a constitutional amendment – aimed at Haitian immigrants – which would make children of immigrants unable to ever achieve citizenship (along with their children as well). I’m sure baseball is a just another by-product of this difficult relationship between the two peoples.

  10. lar @ wezen-ball - Mar 9, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    Ha! My last name’s Mexican (from the dad’s side of the family, of course). My “German family” is my uncle, who just recently retired after spending 27 years in the Air Force with ~20 of them in Germany. My aunt is German and so are their kids (though my mom’s side of the family is mostly German)…

  11. HG - Mar 9, 2010 at 4:12 PM


  12. Ringer - Mar 9, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    Do you really think that MLB would ignore anyone with the talent to play MLB just because of where they are from? I’m thinking that if they truely had MLB skills, someone would sign them no matter where they are from.

  13. Ryan - Mar 9, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    And how are you supposed to showcase those skills? There would be no one to challenge them.

  14. Ron - Mar 9, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Germany does that everyone. Only native Germans are allowed citizenship. That includes the Turks who were born in Germany because their parents were invited as guest workers after the war.
    Even though they are born in Germany and live there all of thier lives, they cannot be citizens.
    That is common throughout most of eastern Europe, but not the west.
    As far as the Hatain issue, I can only tell you from my time working in embassies, that it’s all about the visas. Visas cost time and money, and MLB probably doesn’t want to spend a lot of effort on minor leaguers and guys who aren’t going to do more than spend a few years in the minors.
    I can guarantee you if they find a guy throwing 100 mph, or hitting a ball 500 feet, they’ll make an effort.

  15. Skids - Mar 9, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    How about this? Do like Japan, only Americans (or only 2) foreign players per team. Let’s look after Americans instead of the whole world for a change.

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