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Torii Hunter: black Dominican players are "imposters"

Mar 10, 2010, 7:57 AM EST

USA Today continues its five-part round table on improving the game,
and today they take on a monster: race.  Torii Hunter throws a big
freakin’ bomb
:
 

Fans look down from their seats onto the
baseball field, see dark-colored skin and might assume they are
African-American players. But increasingly, the players instead hail
from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Venezuela.

“People
see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African
American,” Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter says.
“They’re not us. They’re impostors.

“Even people I know come up
and say, ‘Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?’
I say, ‘Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.’ “

“As
African-American players, we have a theory
that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us,” Hunter
says. “It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to
the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It’s like,
‘Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have
Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a
Dominican guy for a bag of chips?’

“I’m telling you, it’s sad.”

I
have great respect for Torii, and I wouldn’t deign to know more about
race and baseball than he does, but this statement is 100%
unadulterated bullcrap.  I covered this topic three years ago, and it
was the first post I ever wrote that gained any attention by anyone.
The point still stands, however, so I’ll more or less quote myself:

The notion that the number of U.S.-born black players in
Major League Baseball has declined is manifest.  There are any number
of reasons for this, not the least of which is that U.S.-born black
kids are more likely to play
basketball or football than baseball these days. As a baseball nut this
bugs me because there are likely a dozen black kids playing second
string safety in the SEC or someplace who could have
been ten times the ballplayer than many of the guys on your team’s
roster. Indeed, if only a handful of black athletes chose to
play baseball instead of basketball or football guys like Mike Jacobs
would be working at a Jiffy Lube right now, and no one would be upset
about that except for some Jiffy Lube manager.  I’m greedy: I want all
the best athletes playing baseball and I’m bummed when they don’t.

But this notion that today’s diversity in baseball is some sort of sham
and that black Dominican players are “impostors” is beyond repugnant.
No, they’re not from the U.S., but if Jose Reyes and Vladimir Guerrero
aren’t black, I’m not sure anyone is.

The fact that more and more of
baseball’s black players happen to come from a couple hundred miles
south of an artificial political border doesn’t mean that there is no
one around to receive the torch passed down from Jackie Robinson, nor
does the fact that baseball has spent millions to develop Latin
American talent mean that the sport has turned its back on U.S.-born
blacks.  And while, like Hunter, I’d like to see more U.S. blacks
playing the game, to suggest, as he does, that Major League Baseball
has some plot to overlook them in favor of international players is
plain dumb. If anything baseball would love to have it the opposite
way. After all, U.S.-born blacks are subject to the draft and can be
paid peanuts for years. Dominican or Venezuelan players get big signing
bonuses. At least the good ones do.

Hunter’s comments speak to our nation’s profound immaturity when it
comes to race. A mindset that makes rigid and often artificial census
categories like “black” and “Hispanic” take on much more significance
than is warranted and causes us to lose sight of what’s really
important.  What’s important in my view? The big picture: baseball is a
truly
international, multi-ethnic game in ways that, say, American football
will never be, and that if there’s a meritocracy anywhere in this
country, it’s in professional sports.

Like Hunter I’d love to see more U.S. blacks in the game and strongly
support and encourage baseball’s efforts to make that happen.  But
claiming that the diversity baseball has successfully cultivated
is somehow illegitimate or phony is simply pathetic

181 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. madhatters - Mar 10, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    You’re very right that these represent very racist comments. But it should come as no surprise that he might say this, as discrimination within the black culture is nothing new.
    I don’t however think it’s racism necessarily, as much as it might just be jealousy on Hunter’s part. There is a lack of black talent in MLB but it has nothing to do with owners or the influx of Latin American players. Frankly thank god there are as many Latin American players in the league or the landscape of baseball would be very very different.
    Torii Hunter shut up and play ball

  2. Marine1118 - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    Here is the most interesting part about his comments……..
    it is called “The Americas”…. North America, Central America and South America.
    So, if a South American Player, who happens to be “black” can not be called “African American”. Tori, please tell us who should!
    I am a huge Angel’s fan and a Tori Hunter fan, but comments like this makes him sound very ignorant.
    Folks, get over the who is black and who is not — being from a different country does not make you less “African American” than anyone else.

  3. Ryan - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    What a bunch of crap. Torii can go take a hike, well said Craig.

  4. Palos - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    The main problem here is that kids here in the US, whatever race they belong to, want instant gratification. They would rather play basketball or football wherein after being drafted they already start in the majors, not to mention being paid a lot more. That is not the system in baseball. you have to toil in the minors before going up to the majors. Even in any kind of business. They want the fast track. I would guess that was how the kids here were taught to do things.

  5. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    Hunter answered his own question right here. Obviously baseball is going to be more interested in signing Latin players if they’re cheaper to train…

    Actually it’s the complete opposite. Teams are spending millions of dollars building baseball academies in Latin America, signing players when they are 16/17 to million dollar contracts to keep them under team control throughout the farm system. Whereas US born players play through HS and college at no cost to MLB at all. Then consider when you can actually sign a player, the #1 US born player (Strasberg for instance) gets a $15M contract vs a Latin American player (Chapman) who gets double.
    Even funnier is that we had to hear months of ridiculous articles, like the one from Jayson Stark, saying that the MLB draft needed to be fixed b/c of Strasberg’s contract, but maybe 1/10 the vitriol when Chapman signed.

  6. Jonny5 - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    “Participate runt” This spam blocker rocks!!!!

  7. smsetnor - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    Wow. I opened the comment link thinking it’d be a stupid-fest in here. But, man, I’m impressed. Craig, you got some pretty good and smart readers out there.
    HBT, give yourselves a pat on the back for being the classiest group of blog-commentors out there.

  8. JWH - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Crew you Hunter. I respected you before your moronic statement. I hope you are booesd in every stadium across the country, including your own, and have the worst year of your career. What a jerk! You wonder why racisim still exists? Look in the mirror.

  9. homzd - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Unfortunately Torii’s rant is indicative of a much larger issue that being racism between minority groups. Being a Native American I see in-fighting all the time between various tribes, i.e. Shoshone vs. Paiute, Navajo vs. Hopi, Crow vs. Cree, etc… Rather than working toward achieving greater things we’d rather cut each other down and hold each other back, squabbling and fighting over crumbs. Instead of simply being “Indians” we see differences among individual tribes as being more relevant, similar to what Torii is saying in his rant.

  10. geezstring - Mar 10, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    This guy says stupid things all the time as I recall. It’s unbelievable – the reporters put a mike in front of them and they just puke out the words. The guy should be ashamed of himself. Maybe he is jealous because the “Latin” black players are so much smarter than American black players?

  11. mautry - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Hear ! Hear ! I don’t know why lack of African-American players is MLB’s fault and why they are expected to recruit and develop Afican-American players. Compared to the diversity of the U.S. population, if we expect MLB to do that, should we not expect the NFL & NBA to do the same for Caucasians.

  12. clutchhit20 - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    Did those of you who are surprised by Torii’s comments pay any attention to him while he was with the Twins? Stupid comments like this come out of his mouth REGULARLY. This is not new. Hunter has been outspoken about topics like this from day one. He does not contemplate the repercussions of what he says, he just says it without regard for anyone else. Just ask Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and anyone else Hunter ripped while with the Twins.

  13. Big Ed 1935 - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    It was correct when they said they pot for football and basketball.
    March Madness and Bowl games are on natioal TV where who watches
    college baseball or minor leagues?

  14. PuMeinCoach - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    Amen. I’d take purple with yellow polka dots if we could get someone who can call a game from behind the plate, hit, and throw runners out at second. Okay, even any two out of those three.

  15. Mjones - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    The guy is an athlete, why are we expecting so much from him off the field. He says stupid things because he probably is pretty stupid. Sooner or later we are going to have to stop putting these athletes up on a pedestal because they are good at games. We should be putting people who are good at life up on a pedestal. That way stupid things done by stupid people will be seen as normal instead of something that deserves any of our attention.

  16. fiumamc22 - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    Thank you for your response to those dumb comments by Tori Hunter. However, I have somewhat of a disagreement with you as well. In not so much of a straight forward way as Tori Hunter, you too implied that some of these hispanic players that are in the league are a result of the african american player not being as interested in baseball anymore. I somewhat disagree with that, since that comment is understating the talent that these players have. As you say baseball is and has been an international sport that has succeeded and had successful players from many different areas of this world.
    either way thank you for your reply, I just happen to be only 95% in agreement with your response.

  17. Dr. Dre - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    What Torii seems to be missing is the fact that any Dominican, Venezualan, Haitian, et al. with African ancestry is an African American, since they all are from the “Americas.”
    What a moron.

  18. josh - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    It just proves that racism is alive and well in the black community. Check Webster for the definition, and you’ll know I’m right.

  19. MBB - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    What Tori Hunter clearly demonstrates by his comments is that he is as talented in racism, bigotry and stupidity as he is in baseball.

  20. benjamin d - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    Tori, the Dominicans are just as Black as we are,like the Cubans, the Puerto Ricans, and the Haitians, they just got off the boat first!

  21. David - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    1. Not all Africans are dark-skinned, so calling black people ‘African-American’ is not accurate on several levels
    2. Per capita, there are more US-born blacks in baseball than in the general population, so really there is a dearth of white baseball players. Are we concerned about the lack of white players in basketball? If we really want to find a sport that needs more blacks, call the NHL.
    3. If Torii want’s to say that black kids in the US lack opportunities to play baseball and develop into MLB level talent, perhaps he would have a point (though I don’t know if that is the case or not). The idea that MLB teams would pass up superior talent and the chance to improve their chances of winning, due to the race/national origins of the talent involved is silly.
    4. Maybe black people just aren’t good at baseball
    (I kid, i kid!!)

  22. David - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    1. Not all Africans are dark-skinned, so calling black people ‘African-American’ is not accurate on several levels
    2. Per capita, there are more US-born blacks in baseball than in the general population, so really there is a dearth of white baseball players. Are we concerned about the lack of white players in basketball? If we really want to find a sport that needs more blacks, call the NHL.
    3. If Torii want’s to say that black kids in the US lack opportunities to play baseball and develop into MLB level talent, perhaps he would have a point (though I don’t know if that is the case or not). The idea that MLB teams would pass up superior talent and the chance to improve their chances of winning, due to the race/national origins of the talent involved is silly.
    4. Maybe black people just aren’t good at baseball
    (I kid, i kid!!)

  23. Steve Braucksieker - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Torii Hunter and others don’t even need lessons in African-American Black History a simple Baseball history will do. The Negro leagues had many latin players. They were discriminated against for one reason and one reason only. The color of their skin.

  24. Canopy - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    Pure ignorance. If I used the N word I would be demonized. But skin color is just that. Skin color. If you’re white you’re white regardless of your national origin particularly in America. Same if you’re black. Josh…racism is ALIVE AND THRIVING in the black community.

  25. whiteonwhite - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    Lol at another Race quote by a black man that gets swept under the rug just because he is black. Black on Black violence is the best violence…. shows just how “dumbed down” the race is truly is.

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