No doubt it’s only coincidence, but a day after the Pioneer Press wrote a first-rate article on how the Hispanic culture has revitalized Worthington, MN., Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon today announced an initiative to help his hometown — in this case, Hazelton, PA. — better accept Hispanics.
Maddon said he had the idea when he was home for Christmas last year and went to a community supper at a daycare center and saw adults sitting at the kids’ table and the kids running around…
“And I thought to myself, ‘That’s what my family looked like back in the day,’” Maddon said. “That’s what I remember of Sunday back in the ’50s and ’60s, my earliest memories, and it really struck me that we are missing the point. If we don’t utilize this group of Hispanic people who want to be in our community, if we don’t utilize them and their abilities to the fullest, our town is going to eventually die and go away.
“These people want to be there. They’re wonderful people, and they’re just exactly like we were back in the day — down to the point that they don’t speak very good English yet, some of them. Neither did my grandpa and grandma on both sides — Polish and Italian.”
“We are a country of different cultures that have grown into one,” Maddon said. “What is the difference between now and when our forefathers came to this country centuries ago? ”
Change Polish and Italian to Swedes and Norwegians, and Maddon could be talking about Worthington.
“It’s just like when the Swedes and the Norwegians hit the shore here….” Sgt. Kevin Flynn, of the Worthington Police Department, told the Pioneer Press. ‘You have to have some generational growth before people were actually on the same page. And you’re actually seeing that now.”
The article said Hispanics in Worthington — at least the ones the PiPress talked to — feel “welcomed,” but it also quoted a business owner who plans to retire and move out. “In the future here, I know the city of Worthington’s going to have a lot of problems. I don’t want to be here for it. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re going to be OK,” he said.
And it’s clear in the comments section — where else? — that Worthington isn’t a success story yet, at least to the outside world.
“People don’t want to go downtown because you there’s hardly a single sign in ENGLISH!” one wrote.
It’s going to take a little more time and at least a few more baseball managers.