Playing Baseball: A Job Americans Won't Do?

When I sit down to write my weekly VDARE.COM columns, one of the pitfalls that awaits me is sheer temptation.

I start research on one topic but then I soon find myself lured down an altogether different road.

What should take two hours turns into a six-hour stint as one Google search leads inevitably to another

Such are the fascinating interwoven complexities of the immigration issue.

Two weeks ago, for example, I wrote about the grousing of some Hispanic minor league baseball players about their chances of making the majors.

"We have to do it three times as well," said San Jose Giant Eliezer Alfonzo in reference to how he has to perform on the field vis-à-vis his American teammates in order to get a promotion.

That started me wondering: how do minor league players get to the United States? Do they to go home after their season ends and their visas expire? What happens to them if they stay?

The answer to my first question is easy. Unlike major league players who enter the U.S. on a P1 visa, minor leaguers depend on the all-purpose H-2B visa for "temporary" employees.

During pre-911 years, baseball was allotted 1,400 H-2B visas—a total that baseball management predictably viewed as insufficient.

But last year, in the post-911 climate, fewer visas were available.

In some baseball quarters, the visa reduction was referred to as a "crisis" that stranded quality players in Latin America, Korea, the Caribbean and Canada.

And that caused the predictable moaning and groaning: "Where are we going to find the players to field a team?"

The Chicago Cubs' Director of Player Development/Latin America, Oneri Fleita, said:

"When you can't get eight or ten players into your rookie league club, it is a problem for the whole industry." [Immigration VISA Shortage Hits Minor Leagues With Player Shortages, by Ronald Young, MLN Sports Zone]

This hand wringing by major league administrators assumes that no kid in the US is interested in or capable of playing baseball professionally.

The Cubs, for example, wouldn't have to look very far. The University of Illinois produces fine players each year.

Although major league baseball has signed U.S. college stars, it seems to prefer Hispanics.

The reason: They are, in a word, cheaper.

About 700 Hispanic players—mostly from the Dominican Republic—come to the US each year.

Dick Balderson, the Colorado Rockies' Vice President of Player Personnel, said

"Instead of signing four (American) guys at $25,000 each, you sign 20 Dominican guys for $5,000 each. The unfortunate thing about this game is that there are so many people yearning to play it especially in a country like the Dominican Republic, where $1,000-a-year wages are the norm and baseball is a religion practiced by the impoverished."

Miguel Tejada, now a full-blown Baltimore Orioles superstar with a multi-million dollar contract, remembers that his first contract was with the Oakland A's for $2,000.

"'They don't give us the money because we don't have the education,' said Tejada." (The Dream: Trying to Make It in the Major Leagues, by Marcos Breton, APF Reporter, Vol. 17 #4).

For the three or four players a year who like Tejeda succeed, life is grand.

But for the 695 or more who fail, they have nowhere to turn.

These young men are poor, uneducated and not always wise to the hard streets where they inevitably land.

And, as VDARE.COM readers might expect, the rejected players overstay their visas and remain in the US illegally.

According to a special report by Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Breton titled "Lost in New York: Baseball's Latin Ghetto" the Dominicans drift to New York's Spanish Harlem to join their other 600,000 countrymen.

Ron Plaza, formerly the manager of the Cincinnati Reds and now a roving instructor for the Oakland Athletics, is quoted by Breton:

"Out of 10 (Dominican players) who are released, I'd say nine stay here illegally. They would rather live in the worst areas of New York than go back home. You can't handcuff them to the plane, so there is very little we can do."

Once in New York, writes Breton, for the displaced non-English speaking player,

"Survival takes the form of fake Social Security cards, assumed names, low-wage jobs and tenements with bolted doors."

What goes on in baseball is a microcosm of the national disaster that foolish federal immigration policies have created.

A handful of wealthy businesses or individuals—in this case major league franchise owners—lay out a modest sum of money, hoping that enough foreign players will make a splash in the big leagues.

If owners are right, their wealth increases.

When they're wrong, nothing much is lost—$5,000 a player. They move onto the next crop of willing pawns.

But society—and not the owners— must assume the responsibility for the players who failed.

To us falls the burden of welfare costs. We have to absorb whatever consequences the now anchorless young men may create with their antisocial behavior.

The cruel irony is that the U.S. produces an abundance of outstanding baseball players every year.

This weekend the NCAA College World Series will begin in Omaha, Nebraska. Many of the finest young athletes in the world will have their skills on display.

The hottest team in the tournament is the University of Nebraska led by pitching sensation Joba Chamberlain.

In the opening round, the Cornhuskers will face the Arizona State Sun Devils and their pitching star Jason Urquidez.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have already drafted Urquidez. And Chamberlain, when he becomes a senior, will go high in the draft too.

But whether or not either ever puts on a major league uniform may in large part depend on what the pitching crop looks like in the Dominican Republic.

And that's a real shame because kids like Chamberlain and Urquidez have been dreaming about the big leagues since they bought their first baseball card. They're good enough to compete at any level.

For young stars like Chamberlain and Urquidez to get their shot, the owners need to turn their attention away from the cheap sources of players like the Dominican Republic—and pay more attention to what's going on at baseball diamonds across America.

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.