Monday, April 26, 2010

Speculation on SB1070 and its impact on professional baseball in AZ

Well that didn't take long...
Because of the huge presence of professional baseball in Arizona and Arizona's economy - the Diamondbacks and Spring Training (which most people are aware of), as well as the Arizona Fall League, Arizona Rookie League, Arizona Instructional League (less a league than a post-season version of spring training) and next year's All Star Game, I gave the MLB Commissioner's Office a call at 12:11 p.m. AZ time.

I wanted to ask them about any impact of the new anti-immigrant law here ("Hand Over Your Papers!") on MLB's plans in AZ.

After being referred to the voicemail of someone with their PR organization, I left a message identifying myself, my blog, and my question. No one has gotten back to me yet (it's only been 120 minutes at this writing, so that isn't a criticism), but within 4 minutes, by 12:15 p.m. AZ time, this blog had received a hit from, you guessed it, Major League Baseball.

The info -
Search Engine Phrase random musings
Search Engine Name Google
Search Engine Host
Host Name
IP Address
Country United States
Region New York
City New York
ISP Major League Baseball
Anyway, while it may be too soon for MLB to have formulated a position on the new law, they probably will have to, and do so very soon.

While the impact of the law on the Diamondbacks and Spring Training may be significant (look for screaming the first time someone from MCSO stops Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera on the street outside of Chase Field and demands to see his papers), there isn't much that can be done over the short term, at least until MLB can figure out how to break leases and agreements. (Look for them to do so when they realize how onerous and oppressive this new law is)

The Arizona Fall League and the Arizona Instructional League shouldn't see much of a short-term impact either - Latin players who are good enough for the AFL tend to be in demand for their countries' winter leagues, and those leagues have first dibs on players from their leagues, and there are enough MLB-sponsored baseball academies in Latin America to handle instructional duties. In addition, they don't have a significant economic or cultural presence in AZ. If MLB moves those operations, only hardcore fans will notice.

The Arizona Rookie League could be a disaster in the making for MLB. It is a league for young, frequently first-year, players. A significant portion (guessstimate: slightly >50%) are 17 and 18-year old Latin players journeying out of their home countries for the first time. Many speak little or no English, and the ones that do, do so with an accent.

In others words, prime targets for dedicated Hispanic hunting squads MCSO sweeps.

Given the inroads that MLB has made into Latin American countries in recent decades (>30% of MLB players are Latin, and the number is still growing), how well will pics of their native sons languishing in one of Arpaio's cells or restraint chairs play there?

Of course, given the low visibility of the League and its players in AZ, and the open bigotry of too many of Arizona's "leaders", there won't be much of a furor in AZ, and if anything, the Pearces and Brewers of AZ will be happy at the idea of imprisoning Dominican (and Venezuelan and Mexican and so on) teenagers and will view international criticism as a source of pride.

That league, the Rookie League, starts play in late June and continues into August, well after the law is expected to go into effect (90 days after the lege adjourns for the year).

In other words, but the end of the summer, potentially a significant percentage* of the next generation of MLB players could find themselves in jail or detained by police to be grilled over their immigration status, all for daring to be born on the wrong side of a line on a map.

That leaves MLB's big club, if they choose to use it.

Next year's All Star Game, planned for Chase Field in Phoenix on July 12. 2o11.

The direct impact of the game and related activities on Phoenix's economy is expected to be in excess of $60 million, with millions more in less-direct economic impacts.

By doing this (enacting an anti-immigrant police state law) more than a year out, the nativists in the lege have created a window of opportunity for MLB to move the game if it so chooses, though it will have to be soon to allow the new site time to adequately prepare (Southern CA might be a good choice - great facilities, experience with big events, and, if MLB wants to send a message, a large Latino population).

Now we wait who MLB wants to keep happy - a few thousand nativists in Arizona, or the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of its players and fans worldwide who don't think that Latinos, whether or not they are baseball players, should be oppressed because of their ethnicity.

*Note - There are 6 North American-based leagues that are primarily made up of first year pros - Arizona, Gulf Coast, Appalachian, Pioneer, Northwest and New York-Penn (Northwest and NY Penn tend to have college age players, the others tend to be younger). There are also MLB-sponsored summer leagues in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, but those players tend to be 17 or younger and solely from those two c0untries. Usually, players who graduate from the Venezuelan and Dominican summer leagues move into the Arizona or Gulf Coast leagues for a season to acclimate to the United States before moving into a full-season minor league.

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