Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter insists he meant no harm toward Latino players when he recently referred to them as “impostors” while discussing the number of African-Americans in the major leagues.
Hunter’s original comments were made two weeks ago in one of a series of USA Today roundtables about baseball and published in Wednesday’s editions.
“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 posted on his Angels-sponsored blog Wednesday afternoon.
“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.”
Hunter has long been known as one of baseball’s sincere, good guys.
A call to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the article’s author, was not immediately returned.
In the report, Hunter was quoted as saying: “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.’ …
“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,” he said.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a Venezuelan, scoffed at Hunter’s remarks before Wednesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics. Angels spokesman Eric Kay said Hunter will not further discuss the subject.
“I was laughing because when he said, `They go there and sign for potato chips,’ I said, `Well, we’ve got Chapman. They gave him $12 million. [Cincinnati actually agreed to a $30.25 million, six-year contract with pitcher Aroldis Chapman.] We’ve got [prospect Dayan] Viciedo. They gave him $10 million. I remember in my time, one scout goes [to Venezuela and] 30 players show up. Now, 30 scouts go there and one player shows up. In our country, we play baseball. That’s no choice. Here you can play basketball, you can be another athlete, you can do so many things when you have the opportunity. And that’s why there’s not many [African-American] players out there.”
There has been some concern about the number of African-American baseball players. Many blacks are choosing to play other sports instead.
Black players accounted for 10.2 percent of major leaguers in 2008, the most since the 1995 season, according to the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.
“I keep saying a lot of times, in 10 more years American people are going to need a visa to play this game because we’re going to take over. We’re going to,” Guillen said.