When I was growing up, respect was the most important thing to my father. That’s what he talked about every day to me, Jose and Yadier. You play the game with respect, yes — but it’s not only about the game. You respect your parents and your teachers and your fellow human beings.
That’s why ESPN’s sarcastic depiction of me running in slow motion down third base and getting thrown out at home in the Marlins’ game was hard to take. I appreciated Henry Schulman’s blog entry about it.
Until recently, I had thought of ESPN as a network run by professionals who know sports. I thought the people at ESPN, because they focus only on sports, actually understood the game and what pro athletes do to reach the highest level of their sport.
In that Marlins game, which we won, Nate Schierholtz went three-for-three with his first home run of the season. Matt Cain pitched six innings of no-hit ball. And the one highlight ESPN shows of that game is me getting thrown out at home? And they’re doing it just for laughs?
Look, you can say I’m the slowest guy in baseball or in all of sports or in the entire world. I don’t take issue with that because I AM the slowest guy. I have always been the slowest guy. I can’t challenge that criticism. But ESPN’s intention was not to criticize but to humiliate.
I take what I do very seriously, which is why – despite my obvious lack of speed – I have managed to play in the major leagues for 11 seasons. I play hard. I play hurt. I respect the game, my teammates, the press, the fans. That’s how I was raised. It was the No. 1 thing.
I know I’m a public figure and I just have to take my lumps. But I would like those people at ESPN who, from a safe distance, make fun of players for a cheap laugh, to remember that players are actual people. With wives and mothers and fathers and children and brothers and sisters. My mother saw the clip. She doesn’t speak English so she asked Yadier’s wife what the announcer was saying. Yadier’s wife didn’t want to tell her. My mom was pretty upset. She didn’t understand why they were making fun of my running when there are so many other things I do every day to help the team win. I told her I didn’t understand it, either.
All I can do is play the way I always have – with respect and professionalism. It’s shame that ESPN, a once great network, won’t have any idea what I’m talking about.