from Jaylin Davis, center fielder from the Northeast Guilford High School Rams, the Appalachian State University Mountaineers, and now with the San Francisco Giants…This is from the San Francisco Giants major league baseball/MLB Blog and Jaylin Davis has a story to tell, but it is one of “The Hardest Stories to Tell”….
(CLICK HERE for the photos, and we sure to read on below.)
Growing up I always thought my mom was so over protective. When I left for college, she called me almost every day. “Just checking in,” she’d say. “What’s new? How’s school?” Small talk. She still continues to do this until this day.
Only in the last few weeks did I realize why she made those calls. She worried about me every single day. She needed to hear my voice and know that I was safe.
I’m a quiet, laid-back person. Always have been. As my Giants teammates will tell you, I don’t say much. I’m polite. I get along with everyone, no matter what color they are. With all that being said, I’m also an African American male. Which is why I was always told I had to walk more lightly through the world than others.
As protests spread across the country (and the world) after the killing of George Floyd, I started receiving texts from other black players in the league to see how I was doing. This led to the conversation of “What can we do?’’
Plans for a Black Lives Matter video took shape and aired on Monday, June 15. Sixty-one black players participated, including myself. We wanted to do something positive and show our support for our community in light of what is going on. We wanted to start that conversation. We want to be a part of our own change by coming together and not being afraid to speak up for our community. We want to make the uncomfortable comfortable for everyone. This is the first of many steps that must be taken.
I have personally experienced racism during my baseball career. My sophomore year, at Appalachian State University, I was running down a ball in right centerfield when I heard a couple guys in the crowd yell something about a monkey and bananas. I was kind of shocked, but didn’t say anything. I felt if I reacted, they’d know it got to me and that would make it worse. I already had the pressure of it being the first game of the season and it was against one of the top teams (Arkansas) in the SEC at the time. I just kept telling myself to stay focused on the game and tune everything else out. Our right-fielder heard what was said and began yelling at the guys. When we got back to the dugout he told the coaches what happened on the field. The coaches immediately asked if I was OK. I said I was, even though I wasn’t. I was angry, hurt, and in shock. Here it was 2014 and these guys felt safe enough to yell such an outrageous, racist comment in public. As I was warming up in between innings an older white couple sitting nearby called me over and apologized and said that they had security remove the guys from the game.
This wasn’t the first time I experienced something like this on the field. During one of my high school games, I was playing shortstop and the only other black player on the team was playing first base. The opposing team’s player hit a home run, and as he jogged past our first baseman, he called him the N-word. Later in the game, he said it again. Both times, the first-base umpire (who was white) did nothing and said nothing. In the post-game handshake line, one of their players used the word a third time. Two of my teammates — twin brothers who grew up with me and are white — confronted the guy, who had made the comments. The next thing we knew the situation got out of control real fast. The next day we found out that several players on the opposing team plus a coach were suspended for the rest of the season.
One of my closest friends in baseball is Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Jon Duplantier. Last Monday, on an MLB Network panel called Being Black in Baseball and America, he shared an experience when he was a high school senior in Texas and the only black player on the team.
“I was playing first base and I heard, ‘I got a rope in a tree with your name on it,’’’ Jon said. “I lost it. I lost it instantly. I dropped my glove and started toward the (visitors’) dugout. I couldn’t hold my emotion. The one saving grace was that the first-base umpire was also black. He got in front of me and hugged me real right and said, ‘It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it.’ I walked to our dugout and said, ‘Hey, somebody else has to play first base. I got to cool off.’
“There was no dialogue after that. Nobody — my teammates, a coach — there was nobody in my corner that I could voice what I was feeling on the inside. I could talk to my parents, but in that moment I’m in high school and I had felt I would go to war for these guys. Some of the them have been my friends since kindergarten. And in that moment, nobody had my back.
“. . . I feel like I’m on an island in baseball (because the number of black players is so low). Other guys feel like they’re on an island. So we suppress all these feelings and the experiences we have. We push it aside. ‘We’ll be OK. We’re strong.’ And that’s not OK. That’s why I think this is important. [But] I’m nervous. I’m so nervous doing this right now.’’
The truth is my two stories and Jon’s are the easiest to tell and understand. The hardest are the undramatic, everyday ones. There’s no story in walking on eggshells every day. Or in feeling the stares of people at an upscale restaurant. Or trying to calm the pounding in your chest whenever a police car appears in your rear-view mirror. Or wondering if your little brother can swallow his anger as well as you can. The constant anxiety, isolation and degradation of racism are like molecules of carbon monoxide in the air. They’re invisible to the naked eye but as poisonous as the brutality caught on camera and posted on Instagram.
Publishing this blog post is difficult for me. Like Jon, I’m nervous, too. I’m extremely private. Even though I talk to my mother every day I never really told her the true emotions I was feeling at the time of both racist incidents because I didn’t want her to worry. I don’t like putting myself out there. My instinct is to keep quiet and not make waves.
But unless we all find a way to openly talk and genuinely listen to each other about racism, we have no hope of rooting it out.