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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.

“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

180 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. yougotg - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    Many Americans don’t understand the racial nuances of Latin America.. In latin america you have decedents from all of europe (mostly spain) mixed with Africans and native indians (indigenous).. race is different.. not better or worse but it is different.

  2. MACFAN - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    The suggestion that this is about money is ridiculous. The Reds just forked over 20 plus million for an 18 year old Cuban kid who throws 100mph. Any play regardless of their heritage will make money in baseball if they prove themselves as worth it. I think it is indicative of race issues which are prevail on both sides of the issue. Last time I looked Tori Hunter wasn’t starving. As the author indicates if a young black athlete who was a gifted baseball player but chose another sport decided to become a pro baseball player..He would be drafted and would make a bunch of money. Interesting that a guy like Tori would lament the opportunity for other folks of color to be given an opportunity to play in the major leagues. He was just plain wrong on this one.

  3. Briggem - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    You can’t ay this without being called a racist, but Hunter’s point (even though he went off on some resentful tangent) has merit. MLB has developed a business model based on developing and importing cheap labor. To deny that money does not play a factor here is naive. MLB puts a lot of money into these baseball academies and then cherry picks the best talent. Sure its expensive, but the return on their investment is much lower risk than signing relatively unproven American players and risking signing bonus money and several years in the minors to determine the player’s potential. Could they get away with what is essentially child-labor practices in the US? And then to flush the 90% that have played baseball all their lives instead of getting an education and didn’t make the MLB cut? Hell, no.
    And as a fan, who cares what team name is on the jersey anymore when the bulk of the starting lineups are all from the Caribbean? Who cares who wins when we are essentially watching PR or DR all-star teams rather than home-grown players?
    MLB is a ruined by all the imported players, not enhanced.

  4. Nasty Boy - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    I agree, God help the white that says something that ignorant. Tori couldn’t of said anything more racist than he did.He better hope this dies down real quick. His team, the Angels are supported mainly by Hispanic fans. What an Idiot. If this gets out of hand , don’t be surprised if a trade comes up.I still can’t believe this idiot said that.

  5. scatterbrian - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    “Take off the blinders for a second and close your eyes.”
    That’s funny.

  6. justtiredof itall - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    At what point will it stop?? Do we now need a black, Hispanic, white, and Asian MLB, NFL, NBA? Do we assign value and compensation due to race or color? I think some guys named Kennedy, King, and Johnson stopped that approach to social behavior and governmental regulations, something along the lines of civil rights.
    To all athletes and fans that think of color when engaging in their hobbies or occupations, just stop it.
    Barriers exist for all people and colors, and yes, that includes white peope attempting to participate in business or sport in South America, South Africa, Asia. Although remnants exist everywhere, it is no longer a valid defense or argument from anyone of any color or race. Best athletes = best contracts, and let individuals pursue their sport of interest without complaining later that they were restricted due to their race.
    This race card is getting very, very, thin, and it’s time all colors and cultures get the message, it’s about personal integrity, responsible behavior, ambition, and value added hard work. The bus that runs the free ride route is out of gas.

  7. Baseball38 - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    I guess I’m a little giddy that a black man can get lambasted for making a controversial racial comment about other blacks; up until now I thought they were immune from such criticism.

  8. Joey B - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    “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.”
    International players come from all over. They don’t all speak Spanish. And by saying they don’t understand the struggle of Blacks, are you implying they are stupid? And besides, I’d bet dollars to donuts that most Latinos have a lot harder life than American blacks.

  9. Chip G - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    Maybe Mr Hunter ought to be more worried about young blacks getting a college degree and begin Dr’s lawyers, business leaders, helping build a community and not pro athletes. If a white person had made a comment like this they would be suspended from baseball. Quite frankly Mr Hunter sounds like a racist.

  10. G - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    I’d bet dollars to donuts that most Latinos don’t have a clue about the BS that black families had to deal with in this country and continue to deal with. Slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, racism and plan old stupidity.

  11. fiveiron - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    It’s too bad we don’t have more good, home-grown players of any color. As an old Cardinal fan, I miss the speed of Brock, Flood, Ozzie and Lonnie Smith, Bake McBride, etc. But then again, I get to root for Albert Pujols.

  12. Bill-Sonora - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    YOU ARE OF AFRICAN DESCENT, JUST LIKE VLAD GUERRERO!
    this does not make you better nor make him an imposter.
    WHAT A RACIST, TORII!
    NO PASS FOR YOU.
    Fire him like you would fire a white person for making similar comments.

  13. Ulises - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Speaking from personal experience, kids in the Dominican Republic play baseball from sunrise to sunset with a damn rock and a broom stick if they cant get their hands on a bat and ball. They live for baseball. Not basketball, not football, not soccer, not tennis, not golf. Baseball! They play for the love of the game not just for a check. Instead of talking all this ignorant crap, why doesnt Hunter volunteer to teach and encourage “black, non Carribean, American born” kids to play and love the game. Teach them to love and play the game with passion as opposed to a means to an end and maybe you’ll have less “imported” (as someone so eloquently put it, as if a majority of us arent “imported”)players taking up slots which should have been given to lees talented players.

  14. FordPSD - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    These players that play for cheap wages are still doing much much better than they would in their home countries. They also appreciate the opportunity they were given. Hopefully these players will keep the price of tickets below $2500 a game because American born players won’t.

  15. scatterbrian - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    “they don’t understand the struggle that Blacks in this country went threw to get to where we are today”
    People all over the world struggle for all sorts of reasons. Some put finding something to eat higher on the priority list than being scouted at a high school baseball game. Have a little perspective.

  16. Ulises - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Your right. The hardships blacks have faced in this country and those that latinos face are quite different. However, what does that have to do with baseball if I may ask?

  17. Joey B - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    “MLB has developed a business model based on developing and importing cheap labor. To deny that money does not play a factor here is naive.”
    I’m not sure it’s about money as about trying to land the most talent you can get. You’re not opting for cheaper int’l signings over drafting players. You’re doing both. You draft the best players available, and you sign the best int’ls you can afford.

  18. fromthemainstreet - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    I wasn’t aware that you could be an African-American racist, that is reserved for Whites only, isn’t it?
    Wake up Tori, you’re warranty on entitlement just ran out. How about perfecting your skills and earning more due to, …ready for this…your value. That’s right, your value. A lot of people today that support professional sports are very grateful to have a job, and that is the new economy my friend.
    Your ranting about Latin Americans is no more valid than a white basketball player ranting about not being paid or honored to the level of King James. You are weak Tori, real weak.

  19. Bill-Sonora - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Being born in Latin America of African descent does not make you less black, or an “imposter” than being born in the U.S. PERIOD YOU ALL COME FROM THE SAME PLACE.
    RESPECT EACH OTHER!
    You may even be distant relatives, you never know.

  20. MBB - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Come on! First, is MLB a business or a charity/social enterprise? I think it is a business, otherwise the players would be playing for nothing out of the charity of their hearts and team owners would be funding teams for the same reasons. Second, most of those kids in the DR and other countries are living way above their national standards and if they hit the major leagues, then they have hit the lottery!
    In addition, you make it sound like these players are picked on the basis of salary and not talent. I think not! In my opinion they are playing on MLB teams because they are more talented than any other white, black, Asian or martian that competed for the spot. And do those stars get paid less than other players of similar caliber? Heck NO!

  21. leadbone53 - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    International players come from all over. They don’t all speak Spanish. And by saying they don’t understand the struggle of Blacks, are you implying they are stupid? And besides, I’d bet dollars to donuts that most Latinos have a lot harder life than American blacks
    Dude, you are an embelsole!!!!! go back and read the article. Your second grade education doesent let you understand any word over four letters.
    the bottom line is that they ARE NOT BLACK.

  22. G - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    It has nothing to do with baseball but someone stated “And besides, I’d bet dollars to donuts that most Latinos have a lot harder life than American blacks.” and I needed to address that. Because I am an African-American I know what I my family has been thru in this country and I will let no one try to minimize the negative experiences we been thru.

  23. bru-dude - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    I believe as someone else said; it’s a cultural issue, not a color issue. My greatest antipathy lies in the fact that these guys are being paid in American dollars and are showing no willingness to speak English! This is America’s game, America’s $$$ and should be spoken with the language Americans speak. No more translators. They make enough to take an ESL class or listen to Rosetta Stone on their i-pods.

  24. fromthemainstreet - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    Just like the NBA is opening up a sports recruiting center in Greenwich to spawn white basketball players….
    And why did they fire Jimmy the Greek? I can’t wait for Sharpton and Jackson to put their spin on this.
    Think Vlad gets a signed copy of this interview??

  25. leadbone53 - Mar 10, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    another idiot comment. This is getting old
    “People all over the world struggle for all sorts of reasons. Some put finding something to eat higher on the priority list than being scouted at a high school baseball game. Have a little perspective”
    What does this statement have to do with this article? Who mentioned anything about high school?
    The bottom line is that kids from the DR, PR, and other spanish speaking countries are not black. Do not wan’t to be considered black, and don’t understand the plight of black americans.

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