MLB Player’s Data reported at the beginning of the 2017 baseball season that about one-third of the players in the Major Leagues were from Latin America (31.9 percent). Forty two and a half percent of the players in the game were people of color, while the other 57.5 percent are white Americans. Now based on the numbers, it would be safe to assume that the American pastime is this great sport where cultures and people come together as one while playing nine innings underneath the lights.
That goes out the window when it seems like every single year, there are a number of current and former professional baseball players, in some form, denouncing the athletes from different cultures from outside the U.S., all brought here just to play the game.
Back in 2015, St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Bud Norris, playing for the San Diego Padres at the time, commented in a USA Today report on the clash between cultures in the game.
“I think it’s a culture shock. This is America’s game. This is America’s pastime, and over the last 10-15 years we’ve seen a very big world influence in this game, which we as a union and as players appreciate. We’re opening this game to everyone that can play,” he said. “However, if you’re going to come into our country and make our American dollars, you need to respect a game that has been here for over a hundred years, and I think sometimes that can be misconstrued. There are some players that have antics, that have done things over the years that we don’t necessarily agree with.”
Of course, he was forced to apologize to “anyone I [Norris] might have offended.” Norris was asked about a 2015 study that showed over the previous five seasons, 87 percent of bench clearing fights occurred because of the actions of players from different ethnic backgrounds. Bud Norris is not alone in this.
During last season’s World Baseball Classic (which is basically the FIFA World Cup for Baseball), USA’s second baseman Ian Kinsler was interviewed by the New York Times, offering this piece of nationalism before the U.S.’ championship game.
“I hope kids watching the WBC can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays. That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
Kinsler also apologized, saying that “everyone has their own style.” During the WBC, teams like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic expressed more emotion and celebratory gestures during the game than the US. Later during the regular season, Kinsler would be fined $100,000 for verbal attacks on longtime umpire Angel Hernandez.
And these are just the players currently in the league. For retired players, their comments is coupled with a false sense of wisdom because of their elder age. Philadelphia Phillies’ Hall of Fame third baseman, Mike Schmidt, was asked in a WIP interview about the team’s star Venezuelan player, Odubel Hernandez, and whether they could build around him for the future.
“My honest answer to that would be no. First of all, it’s a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can’t be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game; or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game; or come over to a guy and say, ‘Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ Just can’t be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.”
During the same week, here is what Boston Red Soxs TV analyst Jerry Remy said about New York Yankees Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka who required a translator when having meeting on the mound.
“I don’t think it should be legal… Learn baseball language, it’s pretty simple.”
The best way to describe the jingoistic culture of baseball comes from former pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, who described how Latin players in the minor are “taught how to respect the game.”
“In minor league spring training locker rooms, bodies are everywhere; white, black, Latino, Asian—lots of culture for the melting pot. Unfortunately there is only one clubhouse radio, and when that radio is playing Reggaeton, the white players say, ‘it’s been taken over by the Latinos’……Then it happens: Lesson number 1. A white upperclassmen with too many years at the same low level stands up and kills the beat. The Latino players turn in outraged unison. The white player stares them down, and with that fearless sensibility born from entitlement, declares, ‘Hey, Reggaeton, es no bueno. America! English music!’
In a sport where the last MVPs, Jose Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton, are players of Latin descent, there is an absurd amount of animosity for any culture that does not match that of the U.S. And the game of baseball wonders why this animosity towards new culture is leading to an exodus in viewership from young fans, as they gravitate towards different sports where expressing one’s self won’t be met with a 95 mph fastball to the spine.