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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Welcome to the Charleston Riverdogs, Robert Refsnyder!

Let me be possibly the first person in the state of South Carolina to offer a sincere and warm welcome to the Charleston Riverdogs' newest player, Robert Refsnyder. Welcome and good luck.

Robert Refsnyder, Most Outstanding Player, College World Series 2012

If you haven't followed college or minor league baseball news lately (and really, unless you or your kid or your college is playing, why would you?), the University of Arizona Wildcats beat the USC Gamecocks in the college world series last month and Refsnyder was named Most Outstanding Player (congratulations!)

Yes, emotions run high with sports, yes, people say stupid things, especially if they happen to be sore losers on the losing side. In this case, the trash talk stepped over the line of even poor sportsmanship. Some USC fans felt the need to contribute to the state's stereotype as the redneck, ignorant jerk capital of the world by not only heckling the player, Refsnyder, who was born in South Korea, adopted and raised in California, but by making threats against his family. Let me be more specific: they were making death threats against his family.

Refsnyder did what any twenty-something would do: He tweeted his reaction to the whole world. He "will never live in South Carolina because they can't accept Asians playing baseball." Not an unreasonable conclusion to jump to when someone threatens your family because of your race.

To anyone who is no more familiar with this state than what they've read in the news or seen on South Park, these USC fans (I'll call them 'Cocks rather than the synonym for what they really are) just reinforced the stereotypes. The intelligent and sensible people of this state should be furious at the USC fans for hurting the state's reputation! And at this point, some USC officials, including Ray Tanner, should have apologized profusely for these morons' stupidity, and dissociated themselves from the "fans" with some "gee, we're sorry, we're sure they aren't USC students or alums, just some out of control fans we don't have any control over," but they didn't. (Although to be fair, rumor has it that some fans and South Carolinians sent Refsnyder messages apologizing for the 'Cocks.)

Fate is a funny thing and Refsnyder was then signed by the New York Yankees. I'm sure he felt quite safe signing with a team whose home is in that bastion of northeastern, liberal elites and racial diversity, New York City, but of course it couldn't be that simple. The Charleston Riverdogs are the Yankee's Class A team and guess where Refsnyder was sent?

To quickly make amends and set a better tone for his move to the south, Refsnyder apologized publicly and profusely in the media and on Twitter for stereotyping the state based on a few bad apples. ("Generalizing the whole state was foolish on my part, just immature.")

For an "immature" twenty-something, Refsnyder took the high road. The Riverdogs are lucky to have such a talented, intelligent, and classy addition to their team. You'd think the Charleston fans would be thrilled and attempt to make up for the poor representation of our state given by USC fan. We are, according to our own myth, the "friendliest city" in the country. I was expecting to see this warm Charleston welcome at the Riverdogs game on Friday, waiting to see my city show this young man that those rude and ignorant crackers were the exception, not the rule in this state, that our reputation is ill-deserved.

I am embarrassed through and through for the City of Charleston, the Riverdogs' fans and organization, and the entire state of South Carolina. If there was any doubt in Refsnyder, or anyone's mind, that his original characterization of the people of this state as racist was incorrect, Riverdogs fans relieved them of that misconception. At his first at-bat, the Riverdogs' fans loudly and overwhelmingly booed and heckled Refsnyder. Matt and I were among the very few who cheered him on.

Way to go Riverdogs fans and Charlestonians. You gave further proof to this young man and to the country that we really are the bunch of racist rednecks everyone thinks we are.

To Robert Refsnyder, welcome to Charleston. You may find it hard to believe right now, but not everyone here is that mean. There are a lot of us "from off" who were raised better, who know what hospitality means, and who can accept and welcome others, regardless of "where your people are from." I wish you all the best in your baseball career and the strength to ignore the myopic, xenophobic and vocal minority and find some real "southern charm" in your time here.


  1. Poor kid!! So much for being the "friendliest" city in the South...Glad you and Matt were there to cheer him on:-)

  2. I felt so bad for him. Wondered what the other team thought when fans were booing their own team player!?!