Jason Heyward: Racist taunts ‘part of life’ for black players

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Jason Heyward (right) and Albert Almora Jr. at Fenway Park Saturday.

The day after Orioles center fielder Adam Jones responded publicly to racial taunts from fans at Fenway Park — sparking widespread outrage over the incident — Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward was asked whether he heard anything similar at Fenway during the weekend.

“You hear stuff, you hear stuff,” Heyward said before the game Tuesday against the Phillies.

So that’s a yes?

“You hear stuff, you hear stuff,” he repeated.

Fenway long has had a reputation among players for racist taunting from fans. Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia told reporters that MLB’s 62 African Americans “all know” to expect it at Fenway and said it’s the only place in his big-league career he has been called the N-word.

“It’s not the only park I’ve been in where I’ve heard it,” said Heyward, who got it from Cardinals fans through social media after signing with the Cubs before last season, then again in the Cubs’ first series in St. Louis.

“Nothing shocks you,” he said. “Nothing really shocks me. To that extent, when stuff like that happens, I’m not saying you expect it to happen, but you’re not surprised, growing up African-American, growing up playing baseball.”

Said Kyle Schwarber: “It kind of leaves a pit in the stomach that we’re still at that point.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he had incidents as a minor-league manager in Arkansas and Texas in the 1980s, a decade later as an Angels coach in Milwaukee and more recently as a major-league manager with the Rays.

“At some point, you’d like to believe it’s going to change, but who knows when?” Maddon said. “But at some point, you’ve got to do something about it. You can’t just keep hearing it, then you talk about it briefly, then you table it and eventually hope it goes away, knowing it never will.

“If there’s something you don’t like, and you consider it a legitimate problem, don’t just table it. Keep working at it until you find a solution that’s workable.”

Until then, many African-American players are left to deal with it as an occasional, recurring occupational hazard.

“It is what it is, man,” Heyward said. “If somebody feels that’s what they’re going to use to their advantage, more power to them. It’s not going to affect me. It sucks. It’s something I feel like a lot of people would just like to not hear anymore, ever. But it’s part of life, unfortunately part of life.”

This and that

Maddon said the Cubs are having ongoing discussions about when to drop a temporary sixth starter into a rotation that has not come close to matching last year’s success in the early going. Last season, the Cubs used a sixth starter once just before the All-Star break and once afterward but planned before the season to do it earlier this year.

◆ Kris Bryant left the game for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning because of a “little knot” in his calf. “Nothing a massage can’t fix,” said Bryant, who added he’s “100 percent” sure he’ll be in the lineup Wednesday. “No, 120 percent — 300 percent.”

◆ The Cubs’ World Series trophy reportedly was damaged during team president Theo Epstein’s charity concert Saturday night in Boston but quickly repaired in time for display for the game Sunday night.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com


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