Why no Yankee baseball in Haiti?

By Isabelle L. Papillon

Our elders fought the [U.S.] occupation and resisted the introduction of baseball. Now people who do not want to defend the values of [Haiti] at any price, except to make money by whatever means, have decided to implant baseball in the ground still soaked with the blood of Charlemagne Péralte, Benoit Batraville and all the valiant peasant cacos, without forgetting the “little soldier” Pierre Sully. [Trans. note: Péralte was a martyred hero of Haitian resistance to U.S. occupation, assassinated in 1919 by U.S. Marines. Batraville was another resistance martyr. The “cacos” and Sully were popular resistance fighters.]

The first U.S. occupation in Haiti lasted only 19 years (1915-1934). Three years ago, Haitian progressives found it necessary to commemorate the centennial of this shameful occupation of our country. [But] the Americans occupied for a long time without ever shaping us to their liking.

Haiti is the only country occupied by the Yankees to have resolutely resisted the practice of baseball, the traditional American sport. Haitians who respect themselves, Haitians who are worthy, should applaud the fact that the Yankee occupants could not inculcate us, let alone impose their sporting mores on us.

The Haitian people in a sense should feel proud of having made a difference, as Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela, all suffered the fate of being occupied by the Yankees and embracing the game introduced by the Yankee Marines. Haiti was the exception!

Businessmen now promoting baseball

Why, since 2017, have a group of Haitian and Dominican businessmen decided to set up a project to prepare dozens of children and young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods, to develop baseball in border areas [between Haiti and the Dominican Republic]?

Why this strange initiative aiming to implant baseball in Haiti, the country which so resisted it? Why not take on soccer, the national sport of the country, which has been trampled underfoot for a long time, even retreating, while other countries are making progress?

Very recently on Radio Zénith, former Sen. Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé of Fanmi Lavalas declared that “one of his priorities at the moment is to help develop baseball in Ouanaminthe [a major border city], so that our young people can sign a big contract.”

Dumbfounded, shocked, I couldn’t believe my ears. By chance did the senator fall from another planet?

Aren’t [these businessmen] traitors, like Conzé, who killed Péralte? Conzé, who shamefully and treacherously conspired with the Yankee Hanneken to assassinate our national glory! [Marine Sgt. Herman H. Hanneken, a spy master, bought Jean Baptiste Conzé, a caco lieutenant, for $2,000 in cash and the promise of the rank of officer.]

Isn’t such a “priority” on the part of the senator and his pro-baseball, pro-Dominican, pro-U.S. co-religionists trampling the country’s history? What are the interests that led these people to take such an initiative to the detriment of our own history as a colonized, dominated and occupied people to this day?

Why can’t we be ourselves without copying others? Our national sport being soccer, why do these crooked businessmen and politicians not invest in our national sport in order to greatly improve it, so that we not only have quality players but also a competitive national team?

What traitorous hand is behind this initiative? Is it a way to trample the memory of our elders, the cacos, who refused to submit to learning this game promoted by Yankees?

In other words, is this another way of exploiting our youth in the same way that the subcontractors exploited workers who worked in the baseball factories?

Yes, we must remember: there was a time when 10 baseball factories dotted Port-au-Prince. At the time, Haiti was one of the biggest exporters of baseballs. See the irony: a nation that doesn’t play baseball but which exports every year more than 20 million baseballs.

In a 2004 New York Times article, a baseball factory worker revealed that “after making the first two or three balls every week, they’ve already paid my salary. ”

Baseball — business of big bucks

For a long time, the Dominican and Haitian bourgeoisies have got along well to carefully manage their mutual financial interests. It is therefore not surprising that Dominicans and Haitians are coming together to promote baseball in Haiti. You can bet that behind this beautiful union lies a business of big bucks, millions of dollars.

In July 2017, a first meeting was held that had the support of the president of the Dominican Baseball Federation, Héctor Pereyra, and several senior executives of U.S. Major League Baseball. From June 30 to July 14, 2017, coaches and professional baseball players from the Dominican Republic, under the leadership of the Haitian Baseball Association, visited Haiti to run a clinic for young baseball players.

A second meeting is scheduled for August 2018. The program will be launched next July in Juana Méndez de Dajabón (Dominican Republic) and Ouanaminthe (Haiti). According to the organizers, the main sports authorities of both countries have been invited.

The Jack Brewer Foundation [a U.S. corporate charity] … has taken the opportunity to support the first baseball league whose first field was built at Croix des Bouquets.  This foundation has stated, “Haiti could achieve much more in baseball than the Dominicans were able to get out of it.”

Professional baseball players from the Dominican Republic, including Marino Paul, one of the Dominican coaches of Haitian origin, train young Haitians in the service of the Haitian Baseball Association. Seymour Coffy, president of the International Baseball Academy in Haiti, has also met with the president of the Dominican Olympic Committee, Luis Mejía Oviedo, and with Héctor (Tito) Pereyra, president of the Dominican Baseball Federation.

Coffy expressed pleasure with the support received from sports authorities in the Dominican Republic, especially the baseball authorities, to promote “this discipline” in Haiti.

There is nothing sporting about the practice of baseball in this country, which defiles this great history that Haiti is the only country occupied by the U.S. that has not been spoiled by the number one sport of the occupying forces.

This article from Haïti-Liberté, June 27 edition, was translated by G. Dunkel.

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