The Place Where Baseball, Immigration Collide

Mar 7, 2013

PHOENIX — Spring is in the air, baseball is back.

The prospect of living in the middle of the Cactus League during Spring Training is what made my husband and I giddy to move to Arizona a few years ago.

But it was the raging immigration law debate that gave us pause. I had heard stories from my darker-skinned friends about an openly hostile environment in Arizona.

Today's excellent column by Yahoo! MLB writer Jeff Passan pretty much sums up the intersection of professional baseball and the nationalistic climate swirling in the air of its seasonal host.

A team full of Mexican citizens and Mexican-Americans played a baseball game here Wednesday. This would be of little note in 49 other states. In Arizona, where immigration has been politicized to the point of dystopian fiction, this was a recipe for jokes about how many of the team's players were asked for their papers on the way to the stadium. It might've been funny if not for the fact that a police officer really had stopped one.

"I actually got pulled over today on the way to the field," said Marco Estrada, a Milwaukee Brewers pitcher who has lived in the United States for 24 years, whose wife and children are American citizens and who is representing Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

Passan — proving my assertion that the best sports writers are actually not writing about sports — looked at the experience of Latino players who spend about two months in a less-than-hospitable environment, including San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo.

Adding to the mix is this year's World Baseball Classic, which allows for flexible ancestry as professional players represent 32 countries. Although U.S.-born, Romo will suit up for Team Mexico. Los Angeles Dodger Adrian Gonzalez will as well, although he faced backlash for that decision in previous WBC tournaments.

Friday's matchup between Team Mexico and Team USA is a hot ticket, especially since Cy Young Award-winning knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was announced as the starting pitcher for Team USA. I'm hoping to catch the game, and hoping to not have to report back on any international incidents.

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