On the mound is Yu Darvish, the 31-year-old son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother who came to the Los Angeles Dodgers by way of his native Japan after a stint with the Texas Rangers. At bat is Houston Astros first baseman Yuri Gurriel, a 33-year-old signed with Houston after defecting from Cuba in 2016. On the fourth pitch, with a 2-1 count, Gurriel swings at Darvish’s 94.5 mph two-seam fastball and starts what would become a four-run crooked inning with a single-run homer. It was Game 3 of the 2017 World Series in Houston. The score was 0-10, but these details are not important.
This is not about the home run. It’s about what happened after.
Back in the dugout, the hitter mocked the Japanese pitcher, making a slanty eye gesture and saying “chinito,” a Spanish slur that translates to “little Chinese.”
A video captured on an international MLB feed soon went viral, followed by the usual apologies and discussion.
“I was not surprised by Yuri Gurriel’s gesture. People have done it to me in the past year,” said sophomore business administration and technology major Alex Motter. “The word accompanying is problematic, considering the history between Japan and China.”
Frank Minamino, junior business administration major and pitcher for Trinity’s baseball team, holds a slightly different perspective. As second-generation Japanese-American, Minamino says he has experienced similar actions.
“I’ve had many instances like this and I personally think it’s hilarious. I know it’s nothing too serious in the first place so I see it as a joke, unless it’s someone I don’t have respect for,” Minamino said.
While Minamino sees the gesture as humorous in certain circumstances, the Trinity University pitcher still disapproved of Gurriel’s actions.
“It was very childish on Gurriel’s part to do such a classless act. I don’t think there was any need for the gesture considering Yu Darvish made no negative comments or gestures towards the Astros,” Minamino said. “I lost respect for Gurriel because it didn’t really make sense, there are better situations to make such a gesture but it was too childish and unnecessary for me.”
Motter, president-elect of Trinity’s Vietnamese Student Association, explains the odd state of Asian-American discrimination.
“One of the most bizarre things about discrimination against Asian-Americans is how blatant it is,” Motter said. “Someone in Dallas screamed “˜f””ing chink’ at me in a gas station. Even at Trinity, someone told me “˜Asian people’s eyes are so slanty that they can use dental floss as sunglasses,’ and expected me to laugh.”
While Minamino may laugh off the gesture when made by friends, the Virginia native sees race-based humor as weak.
“If there is nothing else they can say about me but racial gestures, I find it weak on their part,” Minamino said. “I think we can all agree that we would like to hear or see something funnier than that.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred handed down a six-game suspension to Gurriel.
The suspension, which will take place during the 2018 regular season, did not affect the World Series, which was seen by some as too lenient.
“It’s better than nothing. In an ideal world, having more serious punishments for actions such as these would be much more suitable.However, we are currently not there,” Motter said. “There have been many cases where people have done this and not faced repercussions, so some punishment is at least a step in recognizing a problem is happening.”
In a tweet, Darvish forgave Gurriel and urged fans to “stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger.”
“I agree. Being angry accomplishes nothing, but working towards improvement can make measurable change. If we want to make things better, we need to look to the future and figure out what needs to be done to make what we want to see in the world possible,” Motter said.
The talented Gurriel will likely remain in professional baseball for sometime, during which he will have the opportunity to grow and mature.
“I’ve lost a lot of respect for [Gurriel], but if I stopped speaking with everyone who is racist or offensive, I would be cutting a lot of people out of my life,” Motter said. “As a biracial person, I’ve had to face racism from within my own family, so if I can find it in me to forgive them, I can do it if effort is put in to authentically atone for the racist gesture and phrasing.”
The infielder, who has already spoken with the commissioner, must undergo mandated sensitivity training in addition to his suspension.
“Hopefully he learns his lesson and lives up to being a mature baseball player,” Minamino said.