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 these gentlemen share. Both are professionals in their line of work, 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 are both 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 loves baseball. Other than the many traditional and ethnic characteristics, for the most part the similarities stop there.
The differences, however, are huge. David “Big Papi” Ortiz, a star batter for the Boston Red Sox, became a U.S. citizen on June 11, 2008, while Juan “Papi” Sanchez, migrant farm laborer, did not. Both David and Juan came to the United States to make their fortune based on their skills, one hitting a ball better than most American boys, the other by doing the jobs that most American boys would not do.
Both took different paths to get to the United States. More than 15 years ago, David was recruited by many wealthy baseball owners who saw his value and spared no expense to get him into the United States. David always dreamed of playing ball in the United States and all he had to do was be good enough to be discovered. He was welcomed into the professional baseball leagues, paid handsomely, and treated as if he were a national treasure. Juan’s entry into the United States was much different. Immigrating to the United States 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 the United States. 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 choose not to use, especially for harvesting produce. Juan had the desire and ambition to work hard, performing backbreaking jobs in 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, 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 the United States (and let’s face it, because he had to find his own way here), his dream of citizenship is a nightmare. Becoming a U.S. citizen is highly improbable since Juan’s talents are not entertaining; but instead they are used to harvest America’s food.
U.S. farmers across the country need to be able to recruit and hire the most talented farmworkers available. Same as John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, farmers need the best labor to compete. John Henry has much invested in David 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 U.S. farmers that rely on millions of farmworkers 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?