Hispanic Ball Players On Steroids—It`s Your Fault!
June 03, 2005, 05:00 AM
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When you hang around the immigration reform movement as long as I have, one day you will say to yourself, "I have heard it all."

But no sooner will you utter those words than you'll realize that you spoke too soon. Another whopper is always right around the corner.

Today's jaw-dropper comes from an unlikely place—the sports page.

Eliezer Alfonzo, a catcher with the San Jose Giants, the single-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, is of the mind that Hispanics have to be much better baseball players than anyone else on the field to get a fair shot at making the major leagues.

Said Alfonzo, a Venezuelan,

"Latin players have to work a lot harder than white players because we're coming from elsewhere to take their jobs. When they do something, we have to do it three times as well."

Alfonzo's comments were included in San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jorge Ortiz's May 6 story "Culture Gap Draws Attention: High Portion of Latinos caught in web of drugs, steroids."

Ortiz reports that some minor league players, desperate to put up big numbers so that the major league parent team will call them up, often turn to steroids.

According to Ortiz, a player's sense of urgency coupled with the over-the-counter availability of steroids in his native Latin American country explains the high percentage of Hispanic steroid users.

And Ortiz theorizes that some Hispanic players feel slighted and are looking for an added edge may "juice up," unaware that the substance he is using is illegal in the U.S.

Whatever the reason, Hispanics—mostly from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela—represent slightly more than half of the 47 minor league players who tested positive in recent drug tests.

But Dr. Larry Westreich, a consultant to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, said that the league has intensified its educational efforts.

Widely distributed printed materials and videos in English and Spanish warn players about banned substances as well as the physical and legal consequences of using them.

But there are many, many flaws in the premise—indirectly stated by Alfonso and advanced by Ortiz— that racism keeps Hispanics out of the major leagues.

First, Hispanics are decidedly not being held back because of race—or any other reason!

In fact, they're forging ahead. Baseball has integrated faster than any professional sport save perhaps basketball. Major league teams now include black, Hispanic, and Asian players from dozens of countries.

According to the recently released Racial and Gender Report Card on Major League Baseball, baseball received an A or better for opportunities for players, managers and coaches.

Ironically, Hispanic players—who make up 25 percent of the major-league and 42 percent of minor league rosters—have advanced at the expense of black Americans.

While Hispanics in major league baseball have steadily increased, blacks—who statistically dominated baseball in the 1980s—have just as steadily declined. Only 10 percent of major league players are black Americans.

Second, more than any other industry, baseball thrives on statistical performance. Any player who can hit, field or pitch better than another player will soon find his way to the major leagues.

Outstanding players produce winning teams. And winning teams generate tens of millions of dollars in profits for owners, television networks, radio stations and print media of all types.

In what way would the San Francisco Giants, managed by Dominican Felipe Alou, benefit by not fielding its best team—whether or not it included Alfonzo?

Third, only 829 players are on the 2005 major league baseball rosters. That means that of all the kids playing in youth leagues, on college teams and in the minor leagues, only an infinitesimally small percent will wind up in the major leagues.

Finally, baseball's marketing strategies encourage the presence of Hispanic players especially in communities with a large Spanish speaking population.

The new owner of the Los Angeles Angels, Arte Moreno spent more than $146 million over the winter of 2003 to sign Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar.

These are great players. But Moreno, a fourth generation Mexican American, wanted Spanish speaking stars for his Los Angeles-based team.

As an occasional baseball fan and as a long time advocate for common sense in immigration, the whole argument presented by Ortiz/Alfonzo is maddening.

Think about it. Here's Alfonzo—a pretty good player, by the way—living in the U.S. with a minor league contract with one of the storied franchises in baseball…and he's bitching!

Conditions for baseball players of all stripes to reach the major leagues have never been better. The doors are wide open.

And if you don't believe me, then listen to what Baltimore Orioles superstar Miguel Tejada has to say about opportunities for today's young players.

Talking about what playing baseball was like as a kid growing up in the Dominican Republic, Tejada told Sports Illustrated:

"Before we just had the dirt, no fence, no dugout, nothing. When I was coming up, you had to fight with what you had: broken shoes, no gloves. Now kids have opportunities—all the major league teams have academies because they know there is a lot of talent."

That's the bottom line: if you can play, you'll be discovered no matter where you live. But it is up to you to make the most of the chances you get.

Two things off the field will help you get to the top. Stay away from drugs. And don't bellyache.

Let your bat do the talking.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.