Twelve years ago, Major League Baseball will see its first black player to appear in the world series. It will also see its first Dominican athlete when Carlos Santana, the Cleveland Indians designated hitter and third baseman, brings a batting helmet to the National League All-Star festivities in San Diego.
But for many fans, including those paying attention when Santana brought his bat to early morning television studios in Cleveland earlier this week, it still was not the big moment it should have been.
“We all knew that it was going to happen, but you have to pay a little more attention to it,” said Marc Moon, 32, watching with his parents at a Cleveland bar while sipping a beer with a friend. “The fact that the only way it happened was 12 years after Jackie Robinson made it just felt a little like it should have happened more quickly.”
Yandy Diaz, one of the two top Dominican prospects who was not selected to the All-Star game, said: “Seeing just how much of a difference 12 years can make, it doesn’t really get you full charged up or anything. It’s more like, ‘Wow.’
“You’re a Dominican guy, you’re from the Dominican Republic and you think that there’s still that tension with the feeling that, you know, we’re not guys. Just to be around it, see all the incredible people that have been given this chance to go and just kind of live their dreams. To be able to be a part of it is just great.”
In one of the lowest-scoring games in MLB history, the Los Angeles Dodgers won 5-0 to continue their dominance in this year’s event as they took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series in Los Angeles. The latest defeat will only increase the calls for MLB to create a pathway to the home of the free-wheeling baseball concept that is its engine. But there are few signs of that happening.
Joan Condon, a 35-year-old substitute teacher visiting the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland, said her family have waited too long to celebrate a black player to get down to the details of who is in this year’s series. But she said the sense of celebration in a social-media-driven world adds a level of complexity that does not exist in the world of big league baseball.
“The biggest thing I remember is the fact that you can’t help but notice,” Condon said. “You’ll go to the stadium on game day and it’s kind of like a cool atmosphere that you couldn’t have if you hadn’t just gotten there and stuff. I just think the anticipation itself makes you feel a little more comfortable and that’s not the case in the big leagues.”
While new commissioner Rob Manfred has pledged to bring baseball out of its “age of austerity”, the small-market Los Angeles Dodgers have continued to lose the game’s wealthy interests. The two young leftfielders, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig, are playing for the team’s minor league affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M.
The New York Yankees’ highly touted prospects have fallen by the wayside, while the Boston Red Sox will start their 25-man roster with two players born in Cuba, Yoan Moncada and Rusney Castillo. The Kansas City Royals have signed Christian Colon, Cuban who spent some time with Triple-A Omaha, to a minor league contract.
Nelly Courell, a 41-year-old bartender in downtown Cleveland, said: “I’m sorry, I’m not really sure what to think about that because we’ve got Michael Brantley on my team and Lorenzo Cain and those guys, so it will be a different picture, it will be a different type of person, to have all these Dominican guys come here and be here. But at the same time, I think it is nice to see just the sheer fact that we’ve overcome racism. Obviously they have a big age gap. I feel sorry for them because they are young.”