So I'm staring at the cover of this week's SI yesterday morning, and I get to thumb through it before going to work. Grady Sizemore's the cover subject this week, and I'm not really familiar with him -- I know he's a damn good ballplayer and centerfielder for the Indians, and that's about it. The AL Central is not necessarily my area of expertise; I'm an NL guy, really. But I'm looking at the cover and I sense something in his face, not quite sure what it is. It looks familiar.
I read from the front to the back, and I get to the cover article, reading about how he's a class player, five-tool guy, etc., when I hit this paragraph (typed verbatim; the article's not available online, I think):
As someone who turned down the chance to play quarterback at the University of Washington, as well as someone who said he hopes he can inspire other black athletes to play baseball...Hold up -- wait a minute:
...(Sizemore's father, Grady, is African-American, and his mother, Donna, is white), Sizemore is a timely role model for baseball. Just don't expect him to sell himself beyond letting his game deliver the message.So THAT's what I noticed, a face similar to my own, with the same background (reverse the parents' race). In decades past, Grady could have been the black man that everyone thought was "passing." I think he was one of the Indians, along with C.C. Sabathia, that wore #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson -- I can't believe I didn't make the connection then.
Why does this matter to me so much? It's not the "grand scheme of sports" or anything. I just remember being an awkward pre-teen, trying to deal with the minor conundrum of whether I was really more white or black (or whatever that meant) who played baseball until the vision wouldn't let me any longer. As is human nature, I always wanted to see someone on the field whom I could sense had a similar experience; it's one of the ways we connect as fans to our favorite teams and players. (Derek Jeter, I knew about, but it was easy to tell -- he could never fake anyone out on his mixed-race blood.) The more biracial folks I saw in the arena of celebrity and athletics, the less weird I felt.
I know it's basic, simple identification, but I think I've got yet another player that I'll be rooting for. His life story is completely different from mine, but what impressed me is the self-consciousness about wanting to inspire more black athletes to play baseball -- he's comfortable with who he is and his background in ways I haven't quite gotten to or accepted yet.