In a roundtable discussion on race in baseball with USA Today
, the subject of the lack of American Black players in the league came up. More Black American athletes are choosing to play other sports, such as basketball and football, but there are plenty of Black Latino
(or Afro-Latino) players. According to L.A. Angels center fielder Torii Hunter
, however, Black Latinos don't count when it comes to the race disparity in baseball.
"People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African American," Hunter told USA Today
. "They're not us. They're impostors. Even people I know come up and say, 'Hey, what color is [former teammate] Vladimir Guerrero
? Is he a black player?' I say, Come on, he's Dominican. He's not black."
Apparently someone forgot to tell Hunter that race
(Black) and nationality
(Dominican) are two different things.
"As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us," Hunter continued. "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."
For the most part, it seems, in Hunter's mind "black" only refers to African-Americans and not Afro-Latinos. Except for the fact that plenty of Afro-Latino players are holding 7-figure contracts (hardly a bag of chips), it looks like most Afro-Latinos agree with Hunter.
"I took no offense to it," Angels broadcaster Jose Mota
, a Dominican, told USA Today, "and I guarantee you that no Latin player would be offended either. I've even been asked the same question, 'Are you black?' So call me an imposter."
"I think most Latin players want to be recognized from where they're really from," added Atlanta Braves catcher Orlando Mercado
said. "That's their pride. I'm from (Mayaguez) Puerto Rico, so I want to be recognized as Puerto Rican."
Hunter stands firm in his comments but wanted to make clear that he wasn't disparaging Afro-Latinos but just trying to make the point that he wants more Black Americans on baseball fields. He went on his Angels-sponsored blog
to reiterate his point and play down any ideas of racism toward Afro-Latinos.
"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," Hunter said. "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 in to the game. Where he was born and raised makes no difference."