A couple of months ago, a veteran major league baseball relief pitcher, who was known as Leo Nunez (above), came clean and admitted that he had been using a fake name for over ten years in order to legally play baseball in the United States. His actual name is Juan Carlos Oviedo.
Oviedo, like so many other major league baseball players, is from the Dominican Republic, where, for many, baseball is viewed as a “way out” and a ticket to making big money in the United States. These players will do almost anything to fulfill their dream, which includes forging birth certificates and stealing identities. This is not only a problem in the Dominican Republic, but is also an issue in Cuba, Venezuela, and other baseball hubs around the world. When Nunez admitted to using a false identity, his current team, the Florida Marlins, placed him on the “restricted” list, where he currently remains, until they can “work out” the matter and get Nunez back to playing Major League Baseball.
After extensively discussing citizenship and undocumented immigration in both lecture and section, it got me thinking: how does the United States allow this to happen so often? Why is baseball a different situation than when an illegal immigrant working in a factory is discovered and immediately deported and not allowed back? Shouldn’t the government be investigating and handing down decisions on these matters instead of Major League Baseball, a business?
I decided to further investigate identity and age fraud in Major League Baseball and found that this has been a problem for years. In an article from the Miami Herald on October 19th of this year, they stated that Major League Baseball recently revealed that of nearly 500 international prospects and players it investigates per year, over one third of them are rejected from playing due to inconsistencies about who they are, how old they are, or where they are from. (Source: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/10/02/v-fullstory/2434478/fraud-still-rampant-among-dominican.html) Clearly, this is a major issue that MLB faces on a year-to-year basis. I know that when my family, friends, and I talk about International baseball players, we often ask questions such as: Who knows if that’s really who he is? How old do you think he really is? Do you think that’s where he really is from? Personally, I think it’s accurate to add about three years to the age that the player claims to be when he comes to play baseball in the United States. You can see the benefit to lying about your age: The younger you are, the more years you have left to play and the larger and longer contract a team will be willing to give you. Major League Baseball also has the incentive to turn its’ back on this issue because some of the best, most marketable players in baseball are from the Dominican Republic and other international countries. Leo Nunez, I mean, Juan Carlos Oviedo, had 92 saves for the Florida Marlins over the past three seasons. (Source: espn.com)
This is why the government should immediately get involved with this situation and take action to prevent athletes from illegally entering the United States to play baseball. As a huge fan of the game, I know that the level of play may slightly suffer by preventing some very talented players from playing in the MLB before they present verifiable, legal papers, but it is the right thing to do. Baseball is no different than any other business.