The snack shacks, the umpires, the bases, the bats and most importantly the friends, are all familiar. Around the United States, baseball is one of the most popular sports regardless of which state or city one encounters.
With youth little leagues and travel ball leagues, there are many opportunities for young kids to get involved with the sport immediately. Luckily for me, when I first started playing little league around the age of six, I immediately appreciated “America’s Game,” as poet Walt Whitman once called it.
I would go on to play for nearly eight more years until the junior league. Every time I stepped onto the diamond, I appreciated the camaraderie, bond and sense of community I developed with teammates and coaches I had been playing with for several years.
In my local little league, I was able to fit in demographically with the rest of my teams and players surrounding me. This was largely due to the fact that in the city I reside in — and especially throughout the Bay Area — an increasing number of cities are becoming predominantly Asian. But I have always thought to myself, Why aren’t there really any South Asian players in the MLB?
History suggests that this lack of presence is not just exemplified through the realm of professional baseball, but rather throughout all of the major sports leagues — the NFL, NBA and the NHL.
In South Asia, people mainly watch and play cricket; India produces about 90% of global revenue for it, and the love of the game extends to other parts of the region. Baseball and popular sports within the United States are not mainstream in countries throughout the area. But still, why are U.S. immigrants from these countries not playing these mainstream sports?
Perhaps the answer lies in the hands of the goals and aspirations of those immigrants in the first place.
My parents specifically came to the United States to pursue an education and a master’s degree for college, not to play sports. This is also the case for many others that follow the path of the “American Dream” from South Asia.
And although my parents did not play baseball, they always encouraged me and attended my games and practices. My parents always supported my journey as a baseball player, and I am appreciative that they did so. Perhaps if they did not, I would not have had such a passion for baseball.
This same passion brings me hope when I see signs indicating more involvement of South Asian representation in American sports.
Recently in this year’s MLB draft, major storylines emerged. Specifically, Arjun Nimmala made history by becoming the first ever first-generation Indian American player drafted into the league. He ranked 11th overall on MLB Pipeline prospect rankings, and scouts believed he was one of the most talented players in the entire draft.
Eventually, he was selected 20th overall in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays and officially signed with the team July 17 of this year. And Nimmala is not the only one. Ryan Agarwal, a shooting guard for the Stanford Cardinal, is a very effective player. He, too, is of Indian heritage and is first generation.
Both of these star athletes have evinced their hopes to inspire young athletes from South Asia and show these goals are indeed achievable. Both of their stories especially inspire me because sports hold such importance to my life — and these strides excite the future for South Asian sports representation throughout America.
For now, I look back and recall watching many games with my parents at home, confused why there were no players from my origins playing in the league. Many certainly dream of playing professional baseball across the whole country, so my family and I are now ecstatic to see more people representing our community in both basketball and baseball.
Not only do I hope to see Nimmala and Agarwal succeed and their stories inspire South Asians who have a passion for sports, but I hope these successes inspire everyone — from any country, any city and any age — that American sports can be their reality