Iranian baseball fans in Texas are familiar with Yu Darvish, the first Iranian pitcher to play in Globe Life Park. Darvish is of Japanese-Iranian heritage, having been born in Japan. Japanese baseball fans were also excited when he entered the big league, many not even being aware of his Iranian roots.
Darvish now has a $107 million contract with Texas Rangers as their pitcher. Trita Parsi, President and Co-founder of the National Iranian American Foundation, said: “What people are looking for is something that humanizes Iranians.” He also spoke of there being thirty years of “mutual demonization” from both sides. Many Iranian-Americans hope for such opportunities that will introduce to the larger American public the Iranian people and what it is that they stand for, how similar they are and how much they can contribute to the American society.
As the image of Middle Easterners in America is not that great in comparison to other nationalities and the fact that the Iranian nuclear weapon program caused much conflict between the two countries, it hasn’t always been easy to promote a good image of Iran in America.
Parsi said he is excited about changing the image of Iranians through a sports star even though he is half Japanese. The sport has played a major role in changing the face of Middle Easterners, Iranians in particular, with Darvish’s entrance into Major League Baseball expanding the demographic fan groups.
Arash Manzori is a cardiologist from Fort Worth and says that Darvish’s popularity is soaring even among those Iranian-Americans who aren’t baseballs fans as such. Many of them are now taking an interest in the sport and want to learn more about it.
Manzori himself moved to the United States when he was a teenager. He says that all his friends, including their wives and children, as well as those who don’t fancy baseball, are out buying the number eleven baseball jersey. It is the biggest thing he has ever seen in the Iranian-American community since his life began there many years ago.
Gabe Ignatow, the Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas in Denton even compared Darvish to the likes of Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg who were heroes among American Jews.
Ignatow is aware of the many different ethnic groups are trying to fit into the United States and says that it is only natural that there would be a need for a “visible sports hero” who people can cheer for and support.
Up until recently, Darvish has only been known as a Japanese pitcher in Major League Baseball. Most of the baseball fans in the United States did not know about his Iranian ethnicity. Now that his Iranian roots have been acknowledged, more Iranian-Americans are developing an interest in baseball.