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Most people already know the high profile numbers.  The 2011 All-Star Game is currently scheduled to be played in Phoenix, an event that is said to be worth $150 million to Arizona's economy.  It is certainly not too late to reschedule this game.  

In addition, 15 of Baseball's 30 Major League teams conduct their spring training in Arizona's Cactus League.  As of 2011, all 15 of those teams will be within 45 miles of each other in the Phoenix area, and all will be in Maricopa County, home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Each of the Cactus League Teams plays roughly a 32 game schedule, half at their home complex.   The Cactus League accounts for over $350 in spending into Arizona's economy.  One team, the Chicago Cubs, as the linked article points out, attracts incredible numbers of tourists and is single-handedly responsible for 30 percent of that revenue.  

But Major League Baseball is not about taking moral and political stands.

Here's why they it's in their economic interest to do so.  

The owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks is acting today like a victim:  

The team's vice president for communications, Shaun Rachau, [said] that the organization doesn't believe that targeting the team is fair. He [released] the following statement:

"Although D-backs' Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick has donated to Republican political candidates in the past, the organization has communicated to Boycott Arizona 2010 leader Tony Herrera that Kendrick personally opposes (Senate) Bill 1070. The team also explained that Kendrick is one of nearly 75 owners of the D-backs and none of his, nor do the other owners', personal contributions reflect organizational preferences. The D-backs have never supported (Senate) Bill 1070, nor has the team ever taken a political stance or position on any legislation."

Poor, poor, Diamondbacks.  You might think that just the presence of the Latino ballplayers on their team might make them sit up and take notice.  

According to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport(pdf), in 2008 Latinos comprised 27 percent of all major league ballplayers.  So, lets see.  30 teams; 25 player rosters most of the time, not counting for injured players, etc, so that's 203 Latino players in the major leagues.  Now, obviously, those players are distributed among the various teams, many of whom will never see Arizona.  Still, perhaps 6 or 7 members of the Diamondbacks active roster, on average (without looking at names or backgrounds) would be at risk.  Not to mention, since those individual live in Arizona, several presumably would have families being placed at risk due to having to live there.  Possibly there are children at risk of having a parent being arrested for no good reason.

But, you say, these are the affluent of our society.  Surely they can manage their affairs in order to avoid problems, or at least be given the tools by their ballclubs/employers in order to avoid such problems.  Maybe.  Clearly they shouldn't have to, but that's not the topic today.

Let's go back to Spring Training.  And by "Spring Training", I mean that there's a lot more going on than just the 30-odd games that each team plays in minor league-sized stadiums with ever-increasing ticket prices.  It's not just the 55 highly paid players (with a few prospects and has-beens) competing for one of the 25 spots on a major league roster.  There is another, quieter facet to the annual ritual.

Away from the bright lights, each major league organization is also conducting a spring training camp for its minor league players.  And in many ways, this is a much bigger deal than the major league camp.  The major leaguers, by and large, number 55 at the start, are weeded down to 25 by the end and, for the most part, live on their own in condos or upscale hotels.  

Not so much for the minor leaguers.  First of all, there are a lot more of them.  Each major league organization has four minor league teams that begin their seasons at the close of the regular spring training.  That's over 200 players per major league organization who show up initially for minor league spring training.  Many players who don't make the cut stay behind through April and May, for extended training.  In June, at the close of the school year, an additional group of players, newly drafted out of high school or college, together with more freshly-signed international players (who are not subject to the domestic player draft) arrive to train and compete for spots on two more teams that begin play in late June.

That's a whole lot of players, many of whom, quite naturally, are Latino.  But these are not men who are well-adept at keeping to themselves like the big-leaguers.  These are kids, aged 18 (or younger!) to 24, mostly.  The vast majority have never been away from home before.  The vast majority never received a signing bonus and, because salaries don't begin until Opening Day, are living exclusively on a very tiny per diem and an occasional dinner with an agent.

Spring training for these kids is much more than learning about baseball.  It's about growing up.  They are housed at places like Motel 6, Best Western, etc, an entire team organization in one hotel.  I frequently stay in one such hotel during spring training.  The kids are fun and nothing but polite, but you can tell they are young and carry the inexperience of youth.  One day I overheard a dressing down of the players over their conduct at breakfast.  Bed checks are conducted, hotel staff are paid to watch for unauthorized late-night "visitors" to player rooms.

In short, those kids, and that's what they are, represent the most vulnerable to the worst of what the Arizona law has to offer.  They wander off the hotel grounds, and immediately become suspect.  They even have a party in their room and they become suspect.  

They also represent, to put it baldly, a huge investment for the future of the major league team.  To put it another way, the major league teams have it squarely in their own best interests to protect these players.  It is shocking to me that a team like the Arizona Diamondbacks could so blithely cast aside the notion that they would "take a political view."  This is why Major League Baseball has no choice but to pressure Arizona in any way it can, starting with the All-Star Game.

But there's more.

Of the 15 Cactus League teams, 14 are locked into long-term contracts with their communities, that make it virtually impossible to consider leaving Arizona.

The one that's not is the big one, the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs are locked in a negotiation with the City of Mesa and the State of Arizona over financing for their new facility.  A deal appeared to be done, when Commissioner Bud Selig stepped and decided he didn't like the plan, so right now nothing appears likely to pass the legislature by the contractual deadline of July 12.  After that date, the Cubs are free to leave as early as the end of the 2011 spring season.  And make no mistake, there is a group in Naples, Florida, licking its chops at the possibility.

Personally, I would abhor the idea of the Cubs moving to Arizona.  I have invested many, many years in Arizona spring training and developed a sizeable network of friends and other contacts whom I value greatly.  But frankly, I can't imagine why the Cubs or any other team would want to risk exposing its young players to this law, and the Cubs are the team with the best opportunity to do something about it.  I know I don't have much of a voice here, but in this case, for the Cubs and for all of MLB, doing the right thing coincides with doing the economically sensible thing.  

The Cubs must push back, must again raise the spectre of leaving for Naples and make repeal of SB1070 a central part of their negotiation with Arizona.  And MLB must look into what can be done on behalf of the other Cactus League teams.  MLB must show it's serious by removing the All-Star Game.

If Arizona doesn't back down, and fast, this will spread.

Originally posted to BleacherBum153 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 11:22 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  why wouldn't you expect these corporate (6+ / 0-)

    creeps to hide as long as they can get away with it.

  •  Double standard here (6+ / 0-)

    We want to limit corporations influence on politics but we are going flame a for-profit organization that...  stays the hell out of politics?

  •  Agreed and it is unfortunate that the (3+ / 0-)

    AZ is another third world country pretending to be a state.  Oh well.

    I volunteer for Jennifer Brunner current SoS running for US Senate from Ohio, and I voted.

    by J Brunner Fan on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 11:32:26 AM PDT

  •  MLB could take a lesson from the NFL, (10+ / 0-)

    which did move the Super Bowl from Tempe to California to protest Governor Mecham's stupid MLK Day recision. I watched the D-backs game on TV yesterday in Denver. You're starting to see people bring signs to their games making fun of SB 1070, but I'm sure the camera operators are under orders not to show them. If this law is still in effect next spring, it'll be interesting to see the effect on the Cactus League, especially teams like the Dodgers, which have a huge Latino following here. The D-back owner's statement is not exactly a profile in courage.

    stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

    by Mother Mags on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 11:34:37 AM PDT

    •  Write Selig and demand action..Move the 2011 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mother Mags

      All-star game from AZ.

      T

      he Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
      Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner
      245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
      New York, NY 10167
      Phone: (212) 931-7800

    •  There's a huge difference between MLB and NFL. (0+ / 0-)

      The NFL is like 90% Black, their reluctance to play in AZ was largely motivated by the fact that most of the players were Black and raised Hell about it. Not saying that the mostly white MLB players don't care or agree with AZ, but they probably won't bring the same level of opposition that Latinos would if they had larger representation in the MLB.

  •  Hell, why not just move spring training to Mexico (7+ / 0-)

    Mexico's warm in March.  Plus all the American-born players would learn all about what their Latin teammates have to deal with concerning visas.

  •  Didn't you know? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirk McQuigley, esquimaux

    Most sports owners are wingnuts.

    The Constitution is a crock.

    by Bush Bites on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 11:40:15 AM PDT

  •  Just wait till Mariano Rivera or Alex (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bornadem, BleacherBum153

    Rodriguez gets picked up and misses some games while they are checking on status with ICE.

    •  Eh... (0+ / 0-)

      Something tells me that either of those two would be immediately recognized.

      Also keep in mind that many Latin American baseball stars are wealthy.  No police officer in his right mind would suspect somebody of being an illegal immigrant if he's driving a brand-new Jag.

    •  Timaeus - It's not going to happen (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jct, bruddaone

      MLB, and its minor league affiliates will be out in front of this and make sure their players have the right ID and a 24 hour hot line number to a high profile Arizona law firm if they need help. The idea that professional players will be harassed is a straw man.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:15:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here in Minnesota... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        We have the annual Jose Mijares visa watch.

        Every year, he is late to camp because he didn't apply for his work visa on time.

        •  Wait - he gets a visa? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          esquimaux, VClib

          Are they saying there aren't Americans willing to play baseball?

          :)

          Progressive -> Progress; Conservative -> Con

          by nightsweat on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:27:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Late to Spring Training (0+ / 0-)

          My guess is that some players just like to arrive late to Spring Training. However, all of the foreign players do have work visas and should have no problems with the new Arizona law. A good friend of mine who works for one of the big Phoenix law firms, with a sport management practice, has told me that they are setting up a 24 hot line for all professional athletes to be sure if there is a problem they can deal with it immediately.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:01:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Please, I'm not raising it as a real (0+ / 0-)

        straw man. I'm just fantasizing about possible impacts on celebrities.

        Maybe those two guys would be recognized by most cops, but there are scores of Hispanic baseball players who might well not be recognized as they drive back to a hotel late at night.

  •  Hotel could be charged under SB 1070? (0+ / 0-)

    These hotels themselves could be charged if they were "harboring" undocumented people:

    Spring training for these kids is much more than learning about baseball.  It's about growing up.  They are housed at places like Motel 6, Best Western, etc, an entire team organization in one hotel.  I frequently stay in one such hotel during spring training.  The kids are fun and nothing but polite, but you can tell they are young and carry the inexperience of youth.  One day I overheard a dressing down of the players over their conduct at breakfast.  Bed checks are conducted, hotel staff are paid to watch for unauthorized late-night "visitors" to player rooms.

  •  Typo (0+ / 0-)

    You say moving to Arizona.  I think you mean moving to Florida or moving from Arizona.

    Progressive -> Progress; Conservative -> Con

    by nightsweat on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:26:52 PM PDT

  •  Fantastic diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bornadem

    Strongly tipped and rec'd.

    "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

    by mahakali overdrive on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:37:46 PM PDT

  •  Facebook Group (0+ / 0-)

    There's a facebook group urging the MLB to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona.

    http://www.facebook.com/...

  •  20110 All-Star Game (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bornadem, unfinished60sbusiness

    I sent the following letter to the offices of the Major League Baseball Player's Association yesterday via e-mail (it appears that MLB itself doesn;t post an e-mail account for its offices, or for Bud Selig).  I just created my account here so I can't post it as a diary, but I'd urge all those concerned with this issue (and with baseball's abandonment of its historic role in promoting equality in American society) to send something at least like it.  

    "The 2011 All Star Game is scheduled to be played at Chase Field in Arizona, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  As you know, that state recently passed a law requiring people to provide "proof of citizenship" upon request by police.  This law inevitably and outrageously will result in the profiling and harassment of people who "look different" - specifically, those who "appear to be" Hispanic.  Such a measure flouts the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, years of civil rights legislation, and simple human decency.

    Major league baseball's proudest moments have come when it has stood up for equality.  Jackie Robinson's debut in 1947 represented a watershed event in American culture, which played a significant role in the eventual end to Jim Crow laws and segregation in America.  As America's pastime, baseball has a unique and compelling moral role to play in the continuing advancement of equal rights and human decency in this country.  As a major institution of our society, it also has an obligation to do so.    

    Hispanic players comprise a major portion of every major league roster (to say nothing of the minor leagues).  All of them, when in Arizona, will now be subject to random harassment.  They will, effectively, be treated as presumptive criminals.  If this does not outrage you, as the union representing those players, it should.  

    When Arizona refused to recognize the federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King in the early 1990s, the NFL courageously refused to hold its marquee event - the Super Bowl - in Arizona, recognizing the repugnance of such a refusal.  The state's new law is at least as noxious, if not more so, and requires a similar act of moral courage by Major League Baseball.  

    As representatives of the players, the MLBPA must stand up.  It should demand that the 2011 All Star Game be moved out of Arizona, unless and until the state's new and outrageous law is rescinded or overturned.  By playing the game in Arizona, MLB and the MLBPA will effectively be endorsing that law and its noxious effects - effects that, as noted, stand to fall hardest on a significant portion of the MLBPA's own members.  

    The MLBPA has stood up for its members in the past, even when that stance has been unpopular.  It's time to do so again.  Demand that the 2011 All Star Game be moved, or threaten a boycott of the game by MLBPA members (and carry through with that boycott if necessary).  Let Arizona know where you stand.   And stand for what is right."

    •  Sent letters to both MLB and Player's... (0+ / 0-)

      ...Association challenging them to stand against discrimination a second time. I pointed out that I grew up in Brooklyn and watched Jackie Robinson play at Ebbets Field thanks to the MLB Dodgers standing up against hate. I raised my kids and often pointed out the values of Baseball in making such a bold move. They have a chance to double-down on discrimination.

  •  This isn't realistic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bruddaone

     While I appreciate all of the thought put into this diary, and agree with it's sentiments, the idea that an MLB team could just decide, 'Next year, we are playing in Florida' is ludicrous. Where, exactly, are all of these teams going to play? A sandlot behind a high school? The Cubs, Rockies and all of the other teams that play in Arizona have invested a lot of money in their spring facilities. The idea that they would just pack their bags and leave over a law that many find disagreeable is foolish. It wouldn't happen.
     There are many activists at games trying to get people to wave signs about boycotting Arizona, and the like. That's fine. But to expect the D-Backs players or management to do or say anything about it is unfair. I grew up in Arizona, and lived there during the Ev Mecham/MLK debacle. I deeply resented the fact, when I moved to California, that people imagined I was some sort of racist because I was from Arizona. I grew tired of explaining to people that laws are quite often made without consulting me first. I'm not saying people don't have a right to call for whatever actions over Arizona that they want to. But to expect players, teams or the ever 'pragmatic' commissioner Bud Selig to do or say anything about it is foolhardy. The story wouldn't be 'Baseball takes a stance' it would be 'Baseball is playing politics.' Many of the greatest players today are Latino, but I would expect that even they are deeply reluctant to say much about this.
     

    •  2011 All-Star Game (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bornadem

      I agree that trying to pull everything related to MLB out of Arizone isn't realistic.  My own individual post was concerned solely with the All Star Game next year, which is eminently pull-able.  The game and its associated festivities are a moveable feast anyway, held each year in a different ballpark.  That's why it's a major opportunity to show the people of Arizona what the rational nation thinks of it.  Any other club in MLB would be more than happy to take on the Game, even on a shortened schedule.  And of course the revenue boost to that locality (and the hit that Arizona would take) makes the move even more sttractivew.  

  •  You've expanded my understanding (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unfinished60sbusiness

    ...I didn't know much about the spring training for minor league issue until you brought it up.  Dave Zirin's HuffPo article about the DBacks didn't illuminate this part of the story...

    Some creative smartass called Stephanie Miller this morning and said they were all getting big stupid cartoony sombreros to wear to their game tonite (I think they're playing the Rockies) and suggested that fans do that wherever the DBacks play...

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:10:50 PM PDT

  •  Contact the Cubs (0+ / 0-)

    The new owners, the Ricketts family, seem to be very nice people. I think they would try to be helpful, and they'd love Naples as they have a house there!

    Goldman Sachs was not elected.

    by bornadem on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:53:04 PM PDT

  •  Shocking? Really? (0+ / 0-)

    No corporation will care unless not caring costs them money.  If the 'boycott Diamandbacks' protest takes hold then we might hear something from MLB.  

    I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat.

    by docterry on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:28:38 PM PDT

  •  Did anyone see Sir Charles (Barkley) last night? (0+ / 0-)

    At halftime on TNT, he called out Arizona and Governor Brewer (yes he mentioned her name) as being un-American (I'm paraphrasing).  It was awesome.  You could hear the rumble of consternation in the background, but nobody shut him up.  They just went to commercial on schedule.

    the fact that you're right is nothing more than interesting

    by Egg on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:21:06 PM PDT

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