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During a roundtable discussion titled “Being Black in Baseball and America,” Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jon Duplantier recounted how he felt when an opponent made a racist remark toward him during his senior year of high school.
Duplantier said he was playing first base during a scrimmage when someone from the opposing dugout said, “I got a rope and a tree with your name on it.”
He explained he was the only Black player on his team, which left him feeling isolated. The 25-year-old right-hander said that state of mind has remained with him at times throughout his climb up to MLB.
“I feel like I’m on an island,” Duplantier said. “I feel like a lot of guys feel like we’re on an island, and so we suppress all these feelings and the experiences we have.”
MLB hosted the roundtable, which was moderated by MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds, on Tuesday. The event included Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, Miami Marlins pitcher Sterling Sharp and MLB educational consultant Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson.
In the wake of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Americans have protested to demand meaningful reforms and change to address systemic racism and social inequality.
MLB issued a statement June 3 saying it “has zero tolerance for racism and racial injustice” and “is committed to engaging our communities to invoke change.”
In May 16, The Undefeated’s Ryan Cortes drew attention to the lack of diversity among MLB’s ownership and front-office groups, which created a domino effect when teams hired new managers. Bell also explained in a March 2014 interview with Al Jazeera America’s Ray Glier the costs to play baseball at a young age can be prohibitive:
“Think about the demographics of the black population as a whole and how poorly we are doing as a whole as a race. It is a lot easier to go outside and run some drills with the football rather than paying for hitting lessons or pitching lessons and going to this showcase or that showcase.
“Baseball is one of those sports that is really expensive, and the showcases are starting earlier and earlier. The competition is getting stiffer, so the need for some sort of training outside of the hitting tee in the backyard comes more and more at an earlier age.”
Bell said during Tuesday’s roundtable that he and Pirates teammate Chris Archer have started a group chat that includes 150 people of color. The purpose of the discussion is to find ways to benefit their respective communities.