When I first saw the story pop-up on The Drudge Report last Friday, I didn’t take the time to click on the link. After all, why should anyone be surprised by the following headline: “HS umpire under fire for pushing English-only during baseball game.” In our politically charged environment, with the debate over a comprehensive immigration bill — including a path-to-citizenship (aka, amnesty) and border security — set to take place in the nation’s capitol in the coming weeks, these “English-only” incidents are bound to increase.
Much to my surprise, however, this alleged “No Spanish allowed” story hit much closer to home. Walking into my church office on Saturday, I glanced at the Friday edition of the Alamogordo Daily News, only to discover that The Drudge Report story about the High School umpire was not in Arizona, California or in my native Florida, but took place right here in Alamogordo, the town in southern New Mexico that my family and I have called home for the last six years. Not to be outdone by the Las Cruces Sun, our daily newspaper blared the headline, “Alamogordo umpire: Speak Spanish and you’re out.” A little obvious, but nonetheless effective. The only thing missing is an exclamation point!
In a baseball game between the Alamogordo High School Tigers and the visiting Gadsden High School team, played last Tuesday, April 9 in Alamogordo, something truly horrific and unexpected happened — players for the Gadsden team started speaking in tongues. Well, not the ecstatic utterance-kind, but the well-known kind (particularly in New Mexico) — Spanish. It seems that first-base umpire, Cory Jones, allegedly took exception to the Gadsden players speaking in a language that he could not understand. So, instead of doing what any reasonable person in that situation would have done — ignore it — Mr. Jones decided to take the law into his own hands. Where is Judge Wapner when you need him?
With no rule prohibiting players from speaking Spanish, German, or pig Latin, first-base umpire Jones allegedly told the Gadsden players to cut out the espanoles or he would eject them from the game:
Alamogordo baseball coach Randy McCloud said the issue began when Jones thought Gadsden’s players were swearing at Alamogordo’s players in Spanish.
“What we heard was that Cory thought (Gadsden) was cussing at one of our players in Spanish, or at least degrading them, calling him an idiot or something,” McCloud said. “So he asked them not to (talk in Spanish), and then the Gadsden coach said that (Jones) couldn’t ask them to not speak Spanish. Then it escalated from there, but that’s about all we got involved with it.” (here)
There is no indication in any of the news reports that Mr. Jones speaks Spanish. That begs the question as to how Mr. Jones could have thought that “Gadsden’s players were swearing at Alamogordo’s players in Spanish.” I suppose that only profanity-laced Spanish is the only type spoken during high school baseball games. At least that’s what must have been running through Jones’ mind. On second thought, I’m not sure what was running through his mind.
For anyone that has spent anytime in Alamogordo or other parts of New Mexico (I would presume that includes Cory Jones), there is (or should be) an understanding that Spanish-speaking folks are part of our culture and fabric of life. You see, I have learned in my six years living in the Land of Enchantment that Spanish is not a second language for many residents, but, in fact, is their first language. I just wish that the four years of Spanish that I took in high school allowed me to say that Spanish was my second language. Unfortunately, it is not.
I love living in New Mexico. The mix of cultures — Mexican, Spanish, Native American, African-American, and Anglo — makes for a diverse and always-interesting life experience. As an Anglo minority in a predominantly non-Anglo environment, I had two choices when I moved to New Mexico. I could learn to embrace the culture — including learning how to cook my own tacos and make my own homemade salsa — or I could bristle at the number of Spanish-speaking folks. While my Spanish is still pitiful, I can now make a pretty mean tasting taco, although I buy fresh tortillas at the store instead of trying to make my own. Bee there, done that. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty or tasty.
I have come to appreciate the wonderful Spanish/Mexican heritage that is New Mexico. And, I’ve even learned a few Spanish words along the way. Not to mention the importance of Cinco de Mayo. And, for a Baptist pastor — transplanted from the south to the southwest — the 5th of May is about experiencing the ultimate in Mexican culture — food to die for! Whether it’s Spanish or English, ain’t no umpire gonna mess that up!