5 Things We Learned About The Extreme Lack Of Haitian Dominicans In MLB

The Dominican Republic is known for producing major league talent, but baseball players with Haitian roots rarely stand a chance to make it big and those who do often keep their ancestry under wraps.

It’s what sets Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins apart from the rest. Out of the 82 Dominicans that made last year’s Opening Day rosters, the San Pedro de Macoris native was the only player to identify as Haitian Dominican, ESPN reports. But why?

READ: Haitian-Dominican Wins Dominican Republic’s First Olympics Medal

Here are five things we learned about the virtual absence of Haitian Dominicans in Major League Baseball:

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Haitians in the Dominican Republic are often undocumented:
Birth certificates are required to sign with major league teams and obtain visas, but many Haitians in the Dominican Republic don’t own them. Pushed into the margins of society amid longstanding oppression, families often lack access to government representatives that can record their children’s existence on paper.

“I basically didn’t have any documents,” one-time San Francisco Giants prospect Angel Joseph said of his annulled contract. “None. We looked and looked for a way to find them, but they weren’t there. It isn’t that they were missing, I never had them.”

Discrimination against Haitians knows no bounds:
Young Haitian Dominicans aren’t exempt from challenges on the field, with many failing to land spots on competitive Dominican youth teams for reasons beyond their control. “Long before you get to Major League Baseball, there’s a selection process that discriminates against Haitians,” New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who once worked in the Dominican Republic for MLB, attested.

Many players feel pressured to alter their identity as a means to find success:
Fraud is common among prospects, who often lie about their age to appeal to recruiters that place higher value on younger players. Skirting around Haitian descent, however, is inextricably tied to the Dominican Republic’s contentious history with their next-door neighbors, most infamously under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.

“Nobody says anything to me because I speak Spanish,” Giants shortstop Orlando Calixte, formerly of the Kansas City Royals, said. “But a lot of the Haitians here don’t. There’s prejudice against them. That’s why players don’t want to come out and say ‘I’m Haitian,’ even if they were born here and their parents were born here. They don’t want to have to deal with all that.”

READ: What You Should Know About The Dominican Republic’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

2013 changed the game for the worse:
Changing identity was more simple than not before 2013, when the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic ruled children born to undocumented parents in the country since 1929 were not entitled to citizenship, leaving an estimated 200,000 Haitian Dominicans stateless. Tens of thousands have already been deported, while others fled the country in fear. “I have a lot of friends who are scared that the government is going to send them back to Haiti,” Calixte said.

MLB policy is just another hurdle:
To address fraud, the MLB has required top prospects to agree to an age and identity investigation. If inconclusive, the players are then subject to DNA tests to confirm parentage, which has proven to be disadvantageous for Haitian Dominicans. “I wouldn’t say that intended consequences were to leave a specific group of people outside the benefits of that process,” Alderson said. “But in essence that’s what has happened.”

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