The best time of year has arrived—baseball season! And we celebrated by going to a Nationals game during opening weekend. As we arrived at the ballpark, I glanced at the lineup and noticed that lots of guys had the day off, including Denard Span—the only black player on the Nationals’ 25-man roster.
I shook my head in disappointment. I have heard again and again from black friends that it is important for Teddy to see black men doing things he enjoys, so that he has role models who look like him. It was important to me that Teddy saw Denard roaming center field and swinging the bat. But for this game, Teddy wouldn’t see a black man playing for his Nationals.
The Nationals aren’t the only team with a lack of black players. Just 8.3 percent of baseball players are black, compared to roughly twice that in the general population. Major League Baseball knows this is a problem and has formed a diversity committee to figure out where all the black players have gone. But MLB’s efforts weren’t helping put a black player on the field that sunny Sunday afternoon.
Turns out, it didn’t really matter.
As the game got started, Teddy surveyed the field and asked about Bryce Harper. Bryce was out because he was “lost” at the plate and needed a day off. A couple of other times during the game, Teddy asked about Bryce Harper. And it occurred to me that Teddy didn’t choose his favorite player because of skin color, but because he’s the most fun and exciting player.
And why shouldn’t Bryce Harper be Teddy’s favorite player? Bryce is every kid’s favorite player. In DC, white kids and black kids proudly wear Number 34’s jersey. Boys who look like mine aren’t thinking about their need for a black role model or striving to idolize the best black player. They want to idolize the best player. Period. And Bryce is the Nationals’ best player.
As a white dad of a black son, I am acutely aware of race and skin color, but I’m realizing that sometimes, maybe I just gotta let that go and let the kid enjoy baseball.
Let’s Go Nats!