Baseball — a sport that unites or divides? – by: Ryan Gutierrez
Working out with a bunch of hard core diamond rats, the smell of the green field reminded me of my passion for the game. Hearing the snap of the baseball as it hit leather confirmed that love as a ten year old I had was the same, if not more, at thirty.
However I heard another sound that I’d never heard of on a baseball field before — that of a player complaining. No, not against an umpire — that’s as ubiquitous as the grass itself — but against another group of players.
It was an open tryout and players from all walks of life were in attendance. As the field was grouped into two — one to play defense and one to play offense — the players were also divided into two; those from private universities mostly from Manila and the rest from public schools, the majority of whom came from various provinces all over the country. Going back to that strange sound I heard, it was a player commenting in Tagalog as he was running out the field: “You rich kids. We’re gonna kill you on this field.”
That struck such a resonating and uncomfortable chord in me. Uncomfortable because I could’ve played on the other side of the diamond but just ended up on that one. Resonating to discover this reality and all these years not having realized such a difference existed. On a personal timbre, the timing couldn’t have been more poignant as I’d just recently been exposed to the work of Gawad Kalinga and begun to truly understand the true picture of poverty and what needed to be done to remove it. Put simply, it’s all a matter of a change in mindsets and habits.
Baseball — does it unite or divide?
As I continued to survey the field, indeed there were two major backgrounds that the baseball players came from — those who learned the game usually growing up or having been exposed to the U.S. and having continued playing in expensive private schools and universities and those that developed a passion for the game that was handed down from the public schools throughout the entire archipelago, a leftover influence from the colonizing American powers early in the 1900’s.
Major League Baseball itself is experiencing its own differentiation with the absolute influx of non-Americans in the game — the Central and South Americans as well as the Asians. This diversity though is a source of celebration for the game and a reason for unity.
The one I’d felt was divisive, even though it pertained to the same people living in one nation, having one citizenship.
Had this division in baseball been both a mindset and a habit?
I quickly realized that this had gone on for years, and wondered out loud if this was one of the major reasons why growth for the sport has been stunted in the country.
“Well,” as I continued to think aloud, “it sure doesn’t unite it.”
Is baseball a sport that the middle class plays?
When we answer this question, then we might also answer the question of whether or not baseball really does unite or divide. After all, the middle class is the bridge between the rich and the powerful. They are the fair measure of what’s happening to the country, and their progress determines the progress of any nation.
Unfortunately I don’t have the answers on how to address this divide. If anything, I just hope to raise more questions.
Does baseball truly unite or does it reflect a divide?
Hopefully, we end up asking the right questions to position ourselves to arrive at the answers — the right ones.