A hurtful, unfortunate episode
It’s important for me to set the record straight on quotes that were attributed to me in a national publication today. I took part recently in a roundtable discussion about the declining number of black players in professional baseball, a subject that’s been close to me my whole career.
I am hurt by how the comments attributed to me went off the track and misrepresented how I feel. My whole identity has been about bringing people together, from my neighborhood to the clubhouse. The point I was trying to make was that there is a difference between black players coming from American neighborhoods and players from Latin America. In the clubhouse, there is no difference at all. We’re all the same.
We all come from different places and backgrounds. Coming from Pine Bluff, Ark., my hometown, is no different than being a kid from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. We all share the common bond of a love of baseball, and it pulls us together on the field and in the clubhouse.
What troubles me most was the word “impostors” appearing in reference to Latin American players not being black players. It was the wrong word choice, and it definitely doesn’t accurately reflect how I feel and who I am.
What I meant was they’re not black players; they’re Latin American players. There is a difference culturally. But on the field, we’re all brothers, no matter where we come from, and that’s something I’ve always taken pride in: treating everybody the same, whether he’s a superstar or a young kid breaking into the game. Where he was born and raised makes no difference.
I’ve spent my whole career devoting time and resources to making the game more available to young kids in various communities. I love the game. It’s changed my whole life, given me a great life. And it’s important to me to spread the message to kids that the game can teach them so much and give them so much, even if they’re not one of the lucky ones who make it.
I was a football player as a kid. Football was my life where I grew up. But people like Scipio Spinks, who pitched in the Major Leagues and saw me play, and my grandfather were able to convince me that I could have a long career in baseball and not tear up my body. I am grateful I listened to them and followed this path. Now I’m dedicated to spreading the word to other young kids.
This is dear to my heart, which is why I’m so hurt that people might take it the wrong way. I’ll continue to do the things I’ve always done in trying to inspire as many young kids, in every community I can reach, to get involved in this great game.
I want kids from backgrounds like mine to understand that this road is open to them, and it’s a road that can bring them a lot of satisfaction and happiness.