Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond announced on Monday night that he will sit out the 2020 season. Desmond, a 34-year-old, two-time All-Star outfielder took the time to pen a thoughtful heartfelt introspective essay on Instagram that everyone should take the time to read. Desmond’s comments address the COVID-19-related reasons that he is choosing to sit out the 2020 MLB season, but there is so much more to what he says.
I know the “TL;DR” crowd probably won’t go for this one, but I wish you would. Desmond put a lot of thought into this and his comments are meaningful and hit you in the feels. I’ll even pull some of the highlights to help along the way.
Getting deeply introspective about his youth and what it means to grow up biracial in America, Desmond’s beautiful post touched on issues of race, sexism, homophobia, opportunity, equality, and diversity in the game he loves and plays professionally, as well as general conduct throughout the sport. In explaining why he isn’t playing this season, Desmond hit maybe the most meaningful home run of his career on Monday night.
Desmond would describe a recent visit to the Little League fields of his youth in Sarasota, Fla., as well as interactions that impacted him for the rest of his life. “I know it sounds simple to say, as a Major League Baseball Player, that these fields were important in shaping my life. But I don’t mean my career,” Ian Desmond shares. A sentiment that is palpable throughout his essay.
Ian Desmond would go on to describe the tragic departure of his father and the closeness and comfort he found in an amazing coach and the sport in general, while directly addressing the ugly truth about his high school teammates, saying that following a reading of the Lord’s Prayer all but the two Black members of the team would put their hands in and chant “White Power!”
Ian Desmond also begins to describe meeting a young boy in the D.C. area when he was playing for the Nationals. He describes the terrible circumstances in which young Antwuan was growing up and then draws an immediate contrast to his own children, while contemplating life’s benefits and where they came from. Desmond gives careful consideration to society’s priorities and to what those youth programs meant to his life — what they could mean to so many others. He weighs the pain of the racism he experienced with the benefits and rewards of things like the support of teammates and “the triumph of success,” until it becomes clear that the benefits have outweighed the cost.
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And then the gloves come off. The next page of Ian Desmond’s essay directly attacks MLB’s biggest problems, and we’re not talking about a pitch clock here. Citing racial imbalance throughout the sport, Desmond points out that MLB currently has less than 8% Black players to go along with just one African-American GM and two managers, not to mention zero majority owners. Added to the mix, Desmond continues that baseball has “a labor war,” as well as “Rampant individualism on the field. In clubhouses we’ve got racist, sexist, homophobic jokes or flat-out problems. We’ve got cheating.”
If you’re realistic about this world, you may have anticipated the utterly gutting tragedy that begins Desmond’s next page. He asks some excellent questions at the end if you make it that far.
Is it a bit tense and sad in here? Desmond’s story of Antwuan is a devastatingly familiar one, but maybe if we can answer some of the questions he asks in his final paragraph, we wouldn’t have to face the same tragedies again and again.
Hey, nothing makes you feel better like deflecting with a bad joke, right? Here’s a terrible baseball pun before we continue.
Well, I’m not sure, what do you do with an elephant with three balls?
Desmond’s next two pages would describe a bit of his worldview, the prejudice he felt and the boxes into which he would feel forced through most of his life. He also shares how he feels baseball forces players to behave a certain way and conform to a racist expectation.
Referring to baseball’s ridiculous unwritten rules, Ian Desmond says “the golden rules of baseball, don’t have fun, don’t pimp home runs, don’t play the game with character. Those are white rules,” before sharing that he feels his best years came with Davey Johnson as his manager because Johnson was the only one to ever tell him “‘Desi go out there and express yourself.'”
The final sentence of this previous page and his rhetorical questions about the absence of MLB sponsored youth programs in every city are essentially Ian Desmond’s thesis, telling us, begging us, to imagine how Black Americans would thrive if they weren’t forced “into white America’s box,” and had equal footing and opportunity.
Desmond would conclude with the only thing some of the louder people on social media seem to care about, his announcement that he was officially sitting out the 2020 MLB season, saying that COVID-19 has rendered it a season he does not consider risk-worthy, which is both a correct and understandable sentiment.
Desmond goes so much further with his plan for how he’ll spend his newfound free time, committing to working with his old Little League to bring youth baseball back to the neglected sandlots of Sarasota, as well as to stay home to be Dad to his four — soon to be five — kids, and husband to their Mom.
I think I have a new favorite member of the Colorado Rockies. The world needs more thoughtful people like Ian Desmond in it, please.