Hanz was pissed, and he should have been. It’s not every day the field coordinator tells you that, yes, your suspicions are correct, he’s racist and the reason Hanz is going back to rookie ball while a certain inexperienced, less talented Latin player is heading up to a full season of A-ball is, because as the field coordinator explains it, “I know where the fuck you come from Hanz. But you don’t know where they come from. You’d give them a chance to if you saw the squalor their going back to if they blow this. Your nice little American lives, yeah, you got no idea…” The field coordinator spat a dallop of Redman juice onto the facilities’ concourse, “so don’t fucking bring it up again.”
A lot of things went through Hanz’s head. The obvious thoughts; it’s not about where you come from, it’s about how you play, or, I can’t believe this guy just said he was racist, or, hell, even the fact the coordinator had the audacity to admit he acted on such flawed logic at the expense of a player’s career. Growing up in America shouldn’t be a reason a guy gets favoritism, but it certainly shouldn’t be the reason a guy gets, well, discriminated against—it’s not the American way.
“You said if we had an issue, we should come to you. You said it should be us, not our agent. You said—“
“I know what I said.” The coordinator wiped his face. “Now I’m saying this: you white guys have college waiting for you when you’re done here. They go back to no opportunities.”
“How is that my fault?” Asked Hanz.
The coordinator was Cuban. Whether that had anything to do with the conversation or not, it was hard to say. More likely, it was the coordinator’s personality that made him infamous around the minors. He was fiery, quick to fight, and used fear as a motivational tool. He was openly biased about the players he liked. He took his opinion too far, dressing it up in the tough talk so common to the world of baseball. And now, he was racist. Or so it seemed.
“It’s your fault because you’re a pussy, Hanz. You’re soft. You don’t want to play up there and that’s why you’re not there.” Another spit into the puddle on the sidewalk, and a stare back at Hanz, waiting for him to say something else, anything else.
Hanz’s mouth opened the slightest bit, then stopped. Hanz was not an angry guy by nature. He was usually composed when things got heated. Not because he was so calm, or cerebral, but rather because he was naïve. In many ways, he was that white player who knew that if ball didn’t work out there were bigger things out there. He whole-heartedly believed that if it was meant to be, it would be. He didn’t let bad days break him down, or cuss, or scream or yell into the night sky when things went terribly right or wrong. He was level, always doing his best to not let the game squeeze an unchecked emotion out of him. But now he was faced with an issue; control his emotion and walk away, back to the field where his play can do the talking, Or, let this coordinator see a side of Hanz he’d never seen before?
“I don’t think what I want has anything to do with your decision making” stammered Hanz, “I think it’s pretty obvious you do what the hell you want to do. I led the team in batting last year and you’re telling me you’re sending me back so you can give a kid a shot because you like his nationality better than mine?”
The coordinator took a step into Hanz’s personal zone. “You think leading a fucking A-ball team in numbers means you should be first in line for the big leagues? You think you deserve something from me? You’re a pussy Hanz, pussies don’t play in the big leagues. At least I know that kid will go up there and die to make the grade. You, on the other hand, I’d get rid of your ass right now if your coaches didn’t stick up for your delicate career.” Another splat, as if punctuating the message, hit the sidewalk.
It was here, off the field, that Hanz found another tool he would summon over and over again to aid him in his career. It was here, on this sidewalk, in this crappy Arizona spring training complex next to a puddle of chaw spit, that Hanz learned how to fight for himself as a professional. Gone were the days of holding fast to the altruisms passed around American college fields where “good” people make “good” players, and they all say “good” things, and everything works out for the greater “good.” No, here, Hanz would have to know how and when to fight against those who labeled him because the the road to the top is sometimes barred by those with flawed, angry, and biased thinking. To move forward he would have to show his teeth and that he had will to use them—otherwise he would be just another guy sitting around a bar someplace telling stories about how he got screwed over.
“You want to release me, do it, fucking do it. Personally, I don’t think you’ve got the balls. I don’t know how guys like you get jobs like this? This game is a joke sometimes and you’re the living proof of it. If you’re going to make this personal, then so will I— you think you know what you’re doing, then why does the big league team always fucking blow it? You’re getting paid to put the best product out on the field, not to go on some mercy mission. If you gave a shit about this organization, you’d move me forward because I’ll get the job done wherever I go. It’s not my character that’s holding me back, it’s narrow-minded assholes like you.”
Hanz steeled his jaw and held the heaving of his chest long enough to match the firm eyes of the coordinator. The moment between them drew out like a sword, but, finally, it was the coordinator who broke the silence. “You got two weeks to prove your words or I’m getting rid of your ass. Now get out of my sight.”