MLB's Ian Desmond won't play next season, citing racism and coronavirus concerns

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Desmond, an 11-year MLB veteran, has played the past three seasons with the Rockies after signing a five-year, $ 70 million contract.

"I am immensely grateful for my career and for all the people who influenced it," he said. "But when I reflect on that, I find myself looking at those same boxes. The golden rules of baseball: don't have fun, don't hit home runs, don't play with the character. Those are white rules. Don't do anything fancy. Take it to a lower level. Keep it all in the box. "

You've heard racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes in clubs. There are very few black managers, he said, and a low percentage of players are black. It's a problem in the league that Desmond said he hasn't seen any concerted effort to fix.
By choosing not to participate, Desmond gives up his salary for the season because he is not considered a "high risk" player, reported Thomas Harding of MLB.com.

The Rockies have not publicly commented on Desmond's decision. CNN has reached out to the team and MLB for comment and is waiting for a response.

Desmond will still spend the season on a baseball field, just a Little League diamond in Sarasota, Florida, where he grew up. He will work to get the city's youth baseball league "back on track," he said.

"With a pregnant wife and four young children who have many questions about what is happening in the world, home is where I need to be now," he said. "Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my three oldest children's questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their dad."

Other players choose not to participate in the MLB season

The rescheduled major league season will resume on July 23 or 24, league commissioner Rob Manfred said last week. The 2020 regular season never started due to the pandemic, and spring training was cut short.
Several baseball players are choosing not to participate in the MLB 2020 season, citing & # 39; personal health and safety & # 39; # 39;

Now, players are expected to show up for training this week on July 1.

But some players have chosen to exit the season, citing health problems.

Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross will not play, the team confirmed Monday. Neither did Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake, according to a statement from his agent. Zimmerman and Leake said the family considered their decisions.

Read Desmond's full statement:

"A few weeks ago, I told the world of social media a little bit about myself that I never talk about. I started by saying why that was: I don't like sadness and anger. I found that calm allowed me to spend my days easier than emotion. So I put it in. But that comes with an internal cost, and I couldn't control what I was feeling anymore. The image of Officer Derek Chauvin's knee in George Floyd's Neck, The Horrible Murder From a black man on the street at the hands of a police officer, he broke my defense mechanism and suppressing my emotions became impossible.

In the days since I started sharing my thoughts and experiences as a biracial man in America, I have received many requests to elaborate. But, it is difficult to know where to start. And, really, there are many things on my mind. Here is some of that.

Recently, I drove to Little League fields where I basically grew up here in Sarasota.

They are not in good shape. They look sloppy. Neglected. When I saw a Cal Ripken Little League calendar pinned to a bulletin board, I went over to see it, and it was from 2015. The only shiny and new thing, in my opinion, was a USSSA banner. Travel ball Showcases. So, not so much baseball for everyone … as much as baseball for everyone who can afford it.

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I walked through those fields, deserts at the time, and my mind sped up. I stopped at a monument to a man named Dick Lee; Coast Federal Head Coach and manager, Sarasota Little League, 1973-1985. There was a quote from him on the plaque:

“ Many men have appreciated some of their best moments in life by stopping and taking the time to reflect on the young people who have helped them develop, from childhood to maturity, with the ability to continue in life. In no other activity has man seen this growth better than in the heart and character of this nation.

& # 39; Watching our youth grow and develop in baseball knowledge and skills is a reward that only someone who has been involved would know. Baseball not only develops the physical skills of our youth, it develops a person with a knowledge of fair play and at the same time emphasizes the desire to win.

& # 39; That great moment comes when you look at the final product and realize the work done. There is nothing more satisfying to watch these young people than to hear that familiar voice scream "Hello, Coach!" transcending that special spirit of pride. "

I know it seems simple to say, as a Major League Baseball player, that these fields were important in shaping my life. But I don't mean my career.

I read Dick Lee's words, I stayed there and thought about when I was 10 years old, and my stepfather dropped me off for a baseball test. He never came looking for me again. Later, while sobbing alone at the top of the stands, a friendly stranger offered me the opportunity to make a phone call to alert my mother.

I thought back to the moment, not long after that, when my coach, John Howard, seeing that I was upset about an outing or something, wrapped me in such a tight hug that I can still remember how his arms felt around me. How it felt to be held like this; hugged by a man who cared about how I felt.

Then another memory hit me: my high school classmates singing & # 39; White Power! & # 39; before games. We would say the Lord's Prayer and put our hands in the middle so that all the white children could scream. Two black boys from across the team sat in stunned silence that the white players didn't seem to notice. I started walking around the fields a bit, and that's when I thought of Antwuan.

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In these fields I learned a game that I played 1,478 times at the Major League level. It all started when he was 10, 11, 12 years old, exactly how old was Antwuan (12) when I met him at the National Academy of Youth Baseball in D.C.

Could not read. He could barely tell his alphabet. One morning when her mother was dragging Antwuan and her brothers to her aunt's house at 4 a.m. In order for her to go to work, the door was opened to a man stabbed to the ground. Then, without sleep, traumatized by the murder literally outside their door, eating who knows what for lunch, they head to school. And are they expected to perform in a classroom?

Meanwhile, my children fly across the country watching their dad play. They attend private schools and obtain an additional curriculum from learning centers. They have safe places to learn, grow, develop. But … the only thing that separates us from Antwuan is money.

It just doesn't make any sense. Why is society's number one priority not giving all children the best education possible? If we really want to see a change, isn't education where it all starts? Give all children a safe place to go for eight hours a day. Where their teachers or coaches are happy to see them. Where they feel supported and loved.

I went back to those Little League fields because I wanted to find out why they were prospering the way I remembered. What came out was more confusion.

I had the greatest anguish and the greatest satisfaction right there in those fields, in the exact same place. I felt the pain of racism, the loneliness of abandonment and many other emotions. But I also felt the triumph of success. The love of others. The support of a group of men who push each other and stand up as a team.

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I came to experience that because it was a place where baseball could be played by any child who wanted to. It was there, it was affordable, and it was staffed by people who cared.

But if we don't have these parks, academies, teachers, coaches, religious institutions, if we don't have communities that invest in people's lives, what happens to children who are simply heartbroken and never get that moment of satisfaction?

If what Dick Lee knew to be true remains true: baseball is about passing on what we have learned to those who persecute us in hopes of improving the future for others, then it seems to me that America's hobby is failing to do. what you can, like the country that entertains.

Think about it: Right now in baseball we have a labor war. We have rampant individualism on the field. In clubs we have racist, sexist, homophobic or outright jokes. We have traps. We have a top-down minority problem. An African American GM. Two African American managers. Less than 8% of black players. There are no black majority team owners.

Perhaps most disheartening of all is a bewildering lack of focus on understanding how to change those numbers. Lack of focus on making baseball accessible and possible for all children, not just those who have the privilege of paying for it.

If baseball is America's pastime, it may never have been more appropriate than now.

Antwuan was 12 years old when he started going to the National Youth Baseball Academy, because that's when he began to exist in his universe as a resource. We got him a tutor, he got into other programs and learned to read. I was on the right track.

He died when he was 18, he was shot 31 in DC. A 16-year-old boy was arrested for his murder.

It's almost safe to say that the best years of his life came from that Academy … and yet the staff who run it have to beg people to invest money and time.

How can it be? Why isn't there an academy like that in every community? Why does Major League Baseball have to have a specific youth baseball affiliate with RBI? Why can't we support teaching play to all children, but especially to those in disadvantaged communities? Why are accessible and affordable youth sports not seen as an essential opportunity to affect children's development, rather than money-making proposals and recruiting opportunities? It is difficult to understand.

I won't tell you that I look around the world today, baseball or otherwise, and I feel like I have the answers. I do not. I'm not a perfect person. I kept my emotions in for a long time because it seemed easier to go to sleep than to accept the reason behind my feelings.

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Doesn't it seem easier to lock it when you walk down the street and watch the women grab their purse upon seeing you? To put it behind you when you find out that your elementary school had to hold a meeting for all the students to let them know that you and your sister, two black boys, were about to enroll. Disapprove when someone makes a racist joke, or suggests that you should be an athlete because how else could you have such a nice house? He forced me into a box.

And, in many ways, I feel like everything in my life has been about boxes.

I remember when I was a biracial boy I was afraid to fill out papers. I was afraid of those boxes: white, black, other. The biracial seat is a completely unique experience, and there are so many times that you feel like you belong everywhere and nowhere at once. I knew I was not walking with the privilege of white skin, but being raised by a white mother (an amazing mother), I never felt completely immersed in black culture.

He almost always checked Black. Because I felt the prejudices. That's what being black means to me: do you feel the pain? Do you experience racism? Do you feel like you are at a slight disadvantage?

Even in baseball. I am immensely grateful for my career and for all the people who influenced him. But when I reflect on that, I find myself looking at those same boxes. Baseball's golden rules: don't have fun, don't hit home runs, don't play with the character. Those are the white rules. Don't do anything fancy. Take it a little lower. Keep it all in the box.

It's no coincidence that some of my best years came when I played with Davey Johnson, whose number 1 line for me was: & # 39; Desi, come out and express yourself & # 39 ;. If, in other years, you had allowed me to be who I was: to play for free and the way I was born to play, would it have been better?

If we don't force African Americans into the white box of the United States, think about how much we could prosper.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season a risk I am not comfortable with. But that doesn't mean I quit baseball for a year. I will be here in my old Little League, and I am working with everyone involved to make sure Sarasota Youth Baseball gets back on track. It is what I can do, in the scheme of both. So I am.

With a pregnant wife and four young children who have many questions about what is happening in the world, home is where I need to be now. Home to my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Start to guide. I start to answer my three older children's questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. At home to be his dad.

Ian Desmond "

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