I repent in infield dirt and line chalk. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote a couple of pieces on behalf of Christianity Today supporting a lenient immigration policy. But when I read a recent press release from Major League Baseball (MLB), I saw the light. I now have eyes to see and ears to hear. Verily, verily.

It dawned on me that the one part of the economy catastrophically affected by our current immigration policies has been something as American as apple pie: professional baseball. This year, MLB tells us, 27.4 percent of major leaguers are foreign born. And that's nothing compared to the minor leagues, where 45.1 percent of the players are foreign-born.

And the AFL-CIO thinks it has problems! In any event, when it comes to baseball, this is (pun-intended) a major-league problem.

1. These "guest workers" are taking jobs from qualified Americans!

We're not talking about washing uniforms or shining batting helmets, which is work beneath any true patriot. We're talking about 223 ultra-high-paying jobs in the majors, and 2,964 modest paying jobs in the minors. So immigrants are taking jobs that Americans want after all! Believe me, you can go down any college baseball roster and find well-qualified, red-blooded American boys who would die to fill those major and minor league slots.

Okay, granted, that the presence of the foreign born—the likes of Albert Pujols (Dominican Republic), Ichiro Suzuki (Japan), and Andruw Jones (Curacao!)—has dramatically raised the bar of professional baseball, forcing the Americans who do play to work harder to remain competitive. Overall immigrants are raising the quality of play. But of course the issue is not achieving excellence as a nation, or fostering a strong work-ethic that builds character. It's really about, well … it's about, uh, something else, believe me, which I'll get back to in a minute. …

2. They don't even speak English, yikes!!

Take one of our local teams, the 2005 Chicago White Sox, who took multiculturalism to new heights. Last fall sportswriters sat amazed during the World Series as they extolled the fact that between the team members and coaches, the White Sox represented six foreign countries and spoke three languages besides English. It was commonly noted that Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi had minimal command of the English language, and that Cuban pitchers Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez (since traded to Colorado) and Jose Contreras only used translators when they spoke to the media.

One incident from last fall suggests the real problem: During a simulated game, bullpen catcher, and South Korean-born, Man Soo Lee went looking for pitcher Damaso Marte, who hails from the Dominican Republic.

"Are you pitching three innings today?" Lee asked in heavily accented English.

The 30-year-old Marte looked confused.

"Three innings," Lee repeated. "Three innings."

Marte remained puzzled, so Lee played MLB charades. He mimicked throwing a ball, then held up three fingers.

Finally comprehending, Marte held up three fingers and nodded.

Now, while nearly everyone agrees the mastery of English, whether here or overseas, is a sure path to success, here we have players getting success before they've learned English! Granted, they'll eventually learn English, like most guest workers and immigrants do, but should they be allowed to play American baseball at all until they've learned the American language? It's just rewarding them for not learning English!

And granted that these multicultural Chicago White Sox became not only world champions, but international celebrities. And granted, even without the World Series rings, they've had enormous opportunities to get outside their language and culture just being in America. And granted, the fans have become culturally richer in observing the team work together. But all that, and I mean all of it, is beside the point, because the point is, well … believe me, it just goes to show that, uh … I'll come back to that. …

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Anyway, let's not get all tied up in pseudo-arguments and other sophistry. Let's not confuse the issue. The point, which to any red-blooded American is obvious, is this: It's absolutely unassailable that this country is worse off with immigrants, as the example of Major League Baseball makes clear.

It does make it clear, doesn't it?

Mark Galli is managing editor of Christianity Today.


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Earlier Play Ball columns include:

WWJWD? | In the wake of UCLA's loss in Monday's NCAA championship game, I couldn't help but wonder: What would John Wooden do? (April 6, 2006)
There IS Crying in Basketball | If only we all had something so precious to weep about. By Collin Hansen (March 30, 2006)
Pirates vs. Braves | Reforming sports one city at a time. By Mark Galli (March 23, 2006)
Bjorn Again? | It's been a while since tennis legend Bjorn Borg was in the news. Too bad he's back because he's selling his Wimbledon trophies. By Mark Moring (March 16, 2006)
Steroids 'R' Us | It's not just Barry Bonds's heart that is desperately wicked. By Mark Galli (Mar. 9, 2006)
Heavy Medal | At the Olympics, if you don't medal, you certainly must be a loser. By Mark Moring (Feb. 23, 2006)
Opening Ceremony Blues | The Olympics is symbolic, but not of world peace. By Mark Galli (Feb. 16, 2006)

Play Ball
From 2005 to 2007, "Play Ball" examined the relationship of sports and faith: sports is important precisely because it is a form of play, that is, a manifestation of the Sabbath. Contributors included Mark Galli, Collin Hansen, Mark Moring, and others.
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