Home > Uncategorized > Torii Hunter Buys Expensive Bags of Chips…

Torii Hunter Buys Expensive Bags of Chips…

I’ve never met him, but by all accounts Torii Hunter is one of the nicest guys in baseball. Generally, a class act, he’s long been respected within baseball circles for both his play on the field and for his work promoting baseball development in America’s inner cities.

Unfortunately, Hunter recently made comments to USA Today about race that have him embroiled in a controversy:

People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African-American. 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.’

Race remains one of the most dangerous topics to discuss in America. As a white man, it is particularly treacherous territory for me to tread, but — while walking very carefully — I’m going to anyhow. Hunter’s statement is unfortunate, I think I know what he was trying to articulate, and while I believe his overall point has merit, he could not have chosen worse words.

At the root of his comments, Hunter is saying that while you might look at a baseball telecast and see plenty of black players, there are not as many American born black players as there once was. His great mistake, obviously, was using the word “impostors” to describe Latinos. They aren’t impostors, they are black, and often mixed race, guys from Latin America. Of course, they are not American born players, which means that those black athletes who in the sixties, seventies, and eighties were choosing to play baseball, are now taking up other endeavors (the optimist in me would like to say hoops, but the realist in me would say PS3…).

Baseball should be, and I think is, concerned about this, as you want your sport played as widely as possible. Without going Jimmy the Greek on you, Major League Baseball wants the opportunity to have its game played by the very best athletes on the planet, whether they be from Compton, Caracas, Bhadoni, or Victoria. Ensuring that kids in inner cities have the opportunity to play, and fall in love with, baseball is a challenge that MLB brass has thus far failed to meet.

In many parts of Latin America, baseball is the only sport young kids want to play (in other parts it of course shares the stage with soccer). The same cannot be said for kids in Chicago, Los Angeles, or Miami. In those cities, young black kids are gravitating towards basketball and football in far greater numbers than baseball. In part this relates back to the kids themselves, to what is trendy and to what excites them. However, the responsibility for promoting the game to inner city children, for making it accessible and attractive to young urban kids, so that those athletes develop, well… that responsibility rests entirely with Major League Baseball.

Hunter is right in trying to raise awareness to the decline of African-Americans in baseball, but saying that Latinos are impostors was at best inaccurate and at worst, racist. Worse, he compounds that mistake by saying:

As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us. 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.

The problem with the first paragraph is that he chose the wrong word to express what he was trying to say, the problem with the second is that it’s dangerously ignorant. Presenting a conspiracy theory that baseball would rather go in to Latin American communities because they are safer than inner city America exhibits a lack of understanding of the trouble that exists outside the United States. Yes, inner city America is dangerous, but so are many cities in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

And the bag of chips comment, what? That’s nonsensical. Does Hunter know how much the top pick in the 2008 MLB draft received? The San Francisco Giants gave catcher Buster Posey, the fifth pick in the draft, 6.2 million. Of course, Posey had gone to college, which matters only in the sense that his game was developed further than say a sixteen year old Dominican kid, or an American high school senior. The top high school pick was Tim Beckham who was given a 6.15 million bonus. Ok, so clearly the “Boras factor” is at work here, but how much did the top South American signee receive? That same summer, Michael Ynoa was signed by the Oakland Athletics for five million dollars. Hhmmm… hard to see how shopping in South America saved the A’s much money there. What about this year?

This summer, saw two of the most hyped pitchers ever. Stephen Strasbourg whom most scouts acknowledged was the best young pitcher they’d ever seen and Aroldis Chapman a Cuban defector who most scouts acknowledged they’d heard threw really hard. Strasbourg signed a draft record 15.1 million contract with the Nationals, Champman signed with the Reds for 30.25 million. All of which begs the question, uhmmm… Torii, where exactly are you buying your bags of chips?

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