PHOENIX — Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter insists he meant no harm toward Latino players when he 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.
In the blog post, he added: “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,” he wrote.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the article’s author, said he spoke by phone with Hunter for 30 minutes Wednesday after Hunter’s blog update was posted.
“He said: ‘I’m not going to apologize. I told the truth. I’m sorry if I used the wrong choice of words, but impostor is not a racist word,”’ Nightengale said. “He’s more upset by the reaction to the story.”
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.