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Torii Hunter: black Dominican players are "imposters"

Mar 10, 2010, 7:57 AM EDT

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.

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.’ “

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.”

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
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

186 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. soxfan - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    A history and geography lesson pay great dividends.This is why it’s so important for our children to receieve a quality education.

  2. metwinsfan10 - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    I’m not sure why Torii Hunter would make a comment like this, but it could be his personal opinion and if that is truly how he feels it’s kind of a shame because like a reader said before baseball has become international more so than other sports. I’m not going to call it racist maybe just what he was feeling at the time but also like a reader said if you’re going to comment and you are a person that people listen to and might take offense to you may have to be a little more careful expressing your opinion in a public forum. That being said and if he knows people will comment and it may strike a nerve to open a discussion on race in a constructive manner pertaining to baseball and that would make his comment was more constructive than hurtful.

  3. Ed from Tampa - Mar 10, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Didn’t Gary Sheffield spew this type of garbage a few years ago? And isn’t MLB trying to get more inner city (read-black) kids interested in baseball again? Hunter answers his own question with his commetn about Scott Boras – and it was the same answer to Sheffield’s prior spewage. Just follow the $$$

  4. Nissan - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    Hunter needs to stick to baseball cards and leave race cards in the deck.

  5. Jimsjam33 - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Tori ,
    What a bummer ! Did you have some bad sushi last night ? I think the only thing baseball G.M.s care about is weather or not a player can hit a curve ball or a 95 mph fast ball . Just ask Michael Jordan and please restrict your banter to baseball . It’s embarassing that a Black man would discriminate against other people of color for the sake of the all mighty dollar .
    You’re committing cultural suicide and now have labeled yourself as a person that considers latino blacks as inferior . Greed knows no shame . Just ask Tori Hunter , an authority on the subject.

  6. johnny from seattle - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons “darker” Dominicans play baseball is that they face some of the same prejudices and challenges in school and society that “darker” Americans face. The DR has plenty of white and light-skinned people working as surgeons and bankers and government officials. So when these avenues are more difficult to follow, it reasons that kids gravitate more towards sports and music where they can find success.

  7. dendog - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    Tori you are one ignorant MOFO!!!!!
    That is all.

  8. Mark M - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    I have watched major league baseball since I was 6 years old, in 1957. Over the last 20 years I watch less and less, as I have become fed up with the attitudes, rudeness, and whining of many of the players. Not all, but some, and we need to remember a small fraction of the total of any organization can bring the company down. Well, Tori, you have now made up my mind. I will never attend or watch any professional baseball game again. Thank you for saving me money by not paying over $ 100 for me and one other to attend, park, etc. I will send the saving to a 3rd world country, where they may appreciate it, and not live a life of me-me-me. By the way, most of watch the players and refer to them by name or uniform numbers, not, by color…Hey, you Canadiens playing are imposter’s!!!!!!

  9. leadbone53 - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Hunter is right on the money. International players are signed at 16 for a song in most cases, and developed. There native language is spanish and they don’t understand the struggle that Blacks in this country went threw to get to where we are today. If all was needed to be black is skin color, then under your narrowminded views Vijay Singh is a black man.

  10. rob - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Plain and simple Tori missed the main reason why there are less “AMERICAN BLACKS IN BASEBALL.” Most blacks don’t watch baseball, they simply don’t like the sport that much. Henceforth they don’t play baseball. They prefer basketball and football.

  11. Eckster - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Amazing, guys like Hunter should be taught to keep their mouths shut. Why willingly let everyone know how utterly ignorant you are, Torii?

  12. Think4amoment - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    When will everyone get the big picture??? Everyone on this earth is related regardless of ‘actual’ race. We are all from one starting point…Africa. And black Dominican people are just that…black to which Africans populated the islands and evolved to Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Mexicans and etc. If you want to color or hue of the World just look at the hispanic/mexican race. Throughout their bloodline from on end to the other they can pass for white to black. The color of black gave way to the many color textures in skin that we have on this planet. Migration from the motherland helped populate this world but thousands of years later Chris Columbus gets all the credit because he had a bad GPS and bumps into America. So to Torii H…we all have African in our bloodline so why are you being petty and just play baseball. Please do your research on the origin of man in Africa…National Geographic has a great video on it.

  13. DvusRey - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    I think Torii has been spending a little too much time with Gary Sheffield. In regards to whether or not we should classify Vlad Guererro or other dark skinned hispanics as being black or not shouldn’t we ask them first? I know plenty of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Haitians & Jamaicans who abhor being called black because they will tell you vehemently they are not black. They are Jamaican. They are Cuban etc.

  14. Roman - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    Does it really matter? If you can hit 100 on the jugs…or park a couple of 500 footers every few nights…i can care less if you are chocolate mocha.

  15. PhilCane - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    He’s not black. He’s Sammy Sosa. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

  16. Stone - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    Well, apparently people can be racist against people of the same color. Who knew?

  17. Kkite - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    Dominicans are not from Africa. You are wrong there. Get your facts straight.

  18. KWW - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    I’m not even sure of Mr. Hunter’s point. But his rant and those of most of the posters continue to show that we are fixated on race in unhealthy ways.
    Mr. Calcaterra’s assertion that baseball is a meritocracy did give me the impetus to post a question. For me the real test of a meritocracy in baseball (or other sports) would be found on the bench. Is the percentage of minorities (however defined) of non-starters the same (or close) to that of starters? Also, are the white non-starters paid a significantly greater salary than minority non-starters? I hope you see where I’m going with this. Not a trick question. I have no idea of the answer.

  19. Robinson - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    Many of you aren’t getting Tori’s point. Growing up as an African-American playing baseball, I believe what he says has some merit. If you stop focusing on the first part of his message and listen to the financial piece, what he says is 100% true. MLB isn’t interested in American Blacks because they aren more expensive than the kids who grow up in their baseball academies in the DR, PR or Venezuela. Plain and simple, it’s the truth. Baseball makes a point not to market to inner city kids and up until recently had very little presence in many inner city areas.
    If what Tori is saying is BS like many of you like to believe, then why did MLB finally put an academy in Compton California? Because they know.
    MLB believes that there isn’t a race disparity in baseball because there are ‘black’ faces on the field, when in reality, those black faces are not representative of American Blacks. THAT was Tori’s point. Take it or leave it.

  20. scatterbrian - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Thanks Craig. I think that article you linked was one of the first posts of yours I read, and along with this post I’m reminded why I keep coming back.
    (RECAPTCHA = other honduran)

  21. G - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:53 PM


  22. G - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    I will never say that Dominicans players are not great players because they truly have some great players and most of them are not
    imposters. But this is interesting because there are some Dominicans as well as some African-Americans who do not want to be considered black regardless of how dark their complexion is so why should any other person who considers themselves to be Black or African-American consider them to be Black or African-American. For us, we consider them to be lost souls. You can say what you want and maybe Tori could have put it another way because I do not agree with most of what Tori had to say. But I think his point can be said by one thing, Sammy Sosa…………

  23. Mulkey - Mar 10, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    well, then I guess according to Mr. Hunter, our President isn’t black either since he isn’t descended from slaves…..

  24. G - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    You don’t have to be a descendent from slaves to be black…And that is clearly not what Tori was saying.

  25. ARMD - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    I suppose Hunter thinks he’s better because he’s an American black ball player. But because he’s African/American, he’ll get a pass. I hope baseball fans don’t give him a pass for being an idiot, though. Hey, Tori. When I look down and see a ball player, I don’t care if its a dark or light face– just whether or not he can play the game. Get a clue!

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