Playing Ball Vs. Apple Picking
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
What is the difference between David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Juan “Papi” Sanchez? The differences will become obvious, but let me first identify the similarities that both these gentlemen share. Both are professionals performing a job that is very important to their employers. Both David and Juan are the best at what they do and their bosses recognize their talents and are willing to compensate them based on their performance.
David and Juan both are driven to work hard and provide for their families. Their friends call them Papi. Both are from the Dominican Republic. David has never heard of Juan, yet each day Juan takes the time to check how many hits Big Papi had for the Red Sox because, like David, he too loves baseball.
Other than the many traditional and ethnic characteristics, for the most part the similarities stop there. The differences between them are huge.
David “Big Papi” Ortiz, a star batter for the Boston Red Sox, became an American citizen on June 11, 2008, while Juan “Papi” Sanchez, a migrant farm laborer, did not. Both David and Juan came to America to make their fortune based on their skills, one hitting a ball better than most Americans, the other doing a job that most Americans would not do.
Both took different paths to get to America. More than 15 years ago, Mr. Ortiz was recruited by many wealthy baseball owners that saw his value and spared no expense to get him into the U.S. David always dreamed of playing ball in America and all he had to do was be good enough to be discovered; as he was. He was welcomed into the professional baseball leagues, paid handsomely, and treated as a national treasure.
Mr. Sanchez’s entry into the U.S. was much different. Immigrating to America was also Juan’s dream, not to play ball, but to have the opportunity to work hard and earn a respectful living. His efforts to obtain legal entry papers were constantly denied for no apparent reason; except perhaps because his talents were his work ethics and not his ability to entertain.
David was blessed to be a talented athlete, while Juan’s talent was working hard. Juan’s dream was to not be denied and he finally did find his way to America. No one welcomed Juan, but once here his talents were in demand.
Being a hard worker is a simple talent that so many Americans lack, or chose not to use, especially harvesting produce. Juan had the desire and ambition to work hard, performing backbreaking jobs in the fields and orchards across the country. Juan harvested crops with his hands, on his knees or on a ladder, in the harsh elements of the outdoors, to earn enough money to support his family.
Of course the story does not end here. For David Ortiz, making $13 million a year playing baseball, being a hero to millions of loyal fans across the country, one would think, “What more could David Ortiz want or need?” He wanted one more thing — to be a U.S. citizen, and he got it.
Juan Sanchez felt exactly the same, yet because of our antiquated immigration system in America, his dream of citizenship is a nightmare. Becoming a U.S. citizen is highly improbable since Juan’s talents are not in the sports arena, but instead are used to harvest America’s food.
American farmers across the country need to be able to recruit and hire the most talented farm workers available. Same as John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox’s, farmers need the best labor to compete. Mr. Henry has much invested in Mr. Ortiz and he hopes that his return on his investment will continue to yield championship teams, batting records, and a full house at Fenway.
The same goes for American farmers that rely on millions of farm workers like Juan to harvest the crops that feed America. Leaving crops in the field is far worse than empty seats at Fenway. If you love to watch baseball or listen to anti-immigration pundits, my final question is, why is there a difference between David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Juan “Papi” Sanchez?” When I hear, “It’s as American as baseball and apple pie,” it’s clear to me who will be playing ball, but who will be picking the apples?
Mr. Allen is the president of New York Apple Association Inc., a nonprofit trade association representing more than 600 commercial apple growers in New York State.