Hello everyone. It’s about 5:45 am here in AZ. My body must still be on east coast time because I am wide awake, without caffeine. This time of year, Arizona has beautiful weather and baseball spring training, and that’s why I am here. Yesterday I saw the Dodgers play the Chicago Cubs in the middle of the hot day, and at night I saw the Padres play the Kingdom of the Netherlands. My best friend of 28 years has accompanied me on my trip. Hotel rooms and gas are cheaper that way, and he’s also fun to hangout with.
There is a World Baseball Classic going on right now and I think that is why the Kingdom of the Netherlands is here in AZ. When I saw on our baseball schedule that we would be watching the Netherlands play I thought “that’s interesting, I didn’t know baseball was such a big sport in the Netherlands that they have a national baseball team”. We arrived at the game on time, 7:05 pm. It was about 75 degrees with a light breeze, perfect.
Once we were in our seats, I took in the scenery. Food vendors and adults with adult beverages in hand was the common sight. It’s a beautiful stadium too. We sat directly behind home plate, about 10 rows up. For a few seconds I stared at the outfield and over the outfield walls, to the grassy areas where people were sitting, eating, and sipping on something. I am always amazed at how far a baseball that is struck with a wooden bat has to travel for it to be a home-run. Four hundred feet plus is f-a-r. Think about it, that’s longer than a football field, including both end zones.
It was the Netherlands turn to bat. The Padres pitcher started off the Netherlands player with a few off speed pitches, curve balls or something. The Netherlands player did not bite. He didn’t even flinch. He just watched the ball go by and into the catcher’s mitt. You could tell that he was waiting for a fastball. On about the third or fourth pitch, the fast ball came whistling towards home plate and S-M-A-C-K, return to sender, he crushed it. The ball went so for and so high that the left fielder stood motionless, looked up, and admired its trajectory as it landed in the grassy patch behind right field. On the grassy patch, a mad scramble ensued and some lucky fan got himself a home run souvenir.
By the time the ball cleared the fence and became a souvenir, the Nertherland’s home run hitter was rounding first base in the customary home run trot. I must admit, I was admiring and thought “That must be a pretty cool feeling. To just trot around the bases, in no rush, as the opposition, your teammates, and fans look on”. I got a perfect look at the Netherlands player as he was trotting down the third base line towards home, and I got a slight surprise. He was black. I thought “What the heck? I didn’t know the Netherlands had a black population”. Then I looked even closer, and I realized the player that had just crossed home plate was Andruw Jones. Andruw Jones is a professional MLB player! My jaw dropped. A few pieces of popcorn fell out even. I thought “I didn’t know Andruw Jones was Netherlanian, or whatever you call someone from the Netherlands”.
My lack of education on world history and geography reared its ugly face. It sucks to be misinformed or non informed, that’s why I read, but I wasn’t outwardly embarrassed because no one knew what I was thinking. I was just a dummy to myself for about one inning. The i-phone in my pocket was put to great use as I learned that the Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of the Netherlands of course, but it also consists of Aruba, Curacao, and Saint Maarten or Saint Martin. So that’s where Andruw Jones and all the other naturally sun tanned players on the “Netherlands” team came from.
Maybe its just me, but if you tell me that the Dodgers are going to play New Zealand in baseball, and I show up and over half the NZ team is black, that would confuse me, just a bit. Or if I went to watch the Padres play Jamaica in baseball, and the Jamaican team was two thirds white, that would also confuse me, just a bit. Is that just me?
I understand that most countries in the world have skin color diversity. Migration, conquests, and slavery have definitely made the world more colorful, but I had no idea about the Netherlands. Who new? I came to a small Arizona stadium to simply watch some spring baseball, and I ended up learning a bit about the world. I also learned that even I, Healthy Homeboy Hector, have the ability to blindly and ignorantly assume, and be completely wrong.
I think that my assuming of what someone might look like by just knowing what country they are from or what nationality they are, started when I was a pre-child, before birth. It was a few months before I would be born and I asked God where were my future parents were from. He said my dad was from Mexico and my mother was from El Salvador. I created a picture of what they might look like in my head, there’s that damn assuming again, and once I was born and I saw my parents for the first time, my assumption of them was pretty accurate. Then I asked God what nationality would my future wife’s parents be and God said “Guyanese and Black”. I created a mental picture of what my wife might look like, there’s that ugly assuming again, and I was pretty accurate with my mental prediction of her too. She has a natural tan and I love it.
For the record, there were some white folks sitting directly behind me and they were having the same conversation, out loud I might add, that I was having in my head about the Netherlands and its black players.
The Netherlands won, and I learned never to judge a team by its uniform, but I still judge books by their cover. I once saw a book with zombies on the cover and I looked inside, and guess what the book was about? Drum roll please…..zombies.