Diamondbacks pitcher Jon Duplantier on being Black in baseball: ‘I feel like I’m on an island’

Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Jon Duplantier was the only Black person on his high school team in Houston.

One day during his senior year, his team scrimmaged another team with no Black players. As Duplantier was playing first base, he heard a voice from the other team’s dugout: “I got a rope and a tree with your name on it,” a statement that recalls lynchings.

Duplantier ran from his position towards the dugout and was only stopped by the first-base umpire, who was also Black.

“It’s not worth it,” the umpire said as he hugged Duplantier.

That story was one of many that Black baseball players told during a Tuesday night panel titled “Being Black in Baseball and America.” The panel was moderated by Harold Reynolds of MLB Network and also included MLB educational consultant Sharon Robinson, Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell and Miami Marlins pitcher Sterling Sharp.

ā€œI feel like Iā€™m on an island. So we suppress these feelings and the experiences that we have.ā€@dup_thereitis shares a powerful story about being a black baseball player.pic.twitter.com/NwDrqPv1FM

ā€” MLB (@MLB)June 16, 2020

Duplantier told the story to illustrate not just some of the racism he’s faced, but the fact that none of his teammates, some of whom had been friends since kindergarten, stuck up for him.

“It kind of felt like that going up through high school, college, even into pro ball, because the representation, because we talked about the numbers,” Duplantier said on the panel. “The representation is so low on the playing side, on the coaching side and on the management side where I feel like I’m on an island.”

Duplantier feels that although he has long felt he has few people to talk to about racial issues in the game, the tide is changing and people are more open to the tough conversations.

“Hopefully those tough conversations and suppressing all those feelings and experiences will start to change and the conversation will continue because I think if people aren’t ready to hear it, if the game’s not ready to hear it, somebody in the game’s gonna be like, ‘Nope, you gotta hear it,’ ” Duplantier said. “I think they’re more open to it now.”