Hunter says black Latino players are ‘impostors’

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.

AP freelance writers Jose Romero in Phoenix and Jim Richards in

Tempe contributed to this report.