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Gun violence finds MLB, and shows the best and worst of humanity

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Fernando Tatis and Manny Machado showed themselves to be heroes.

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Gun violence is the twelfth leading cause of death in the United States - above liver disease, high blood pressure, and Parkinson’s Disease - with more than one in every hundred deaths in this country caused by a firearm every year, so it seemed inevitable that the scourge of gun violence would eventually find its way to Major League Baseball. The game is a reflection of society, after all. Per United Press International:

Three people were injured, including a fan, in a shooting outside the third-base gate of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., suspending the game between the Nationals and San Diego Padres late Saturday.

The victims went to local hospitals, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department posted on Twitter.

Fan[s] hearing gunfire fled their seats and sought shelter after hearing gunfire in the bottom of the sixth inning, CNN journalists at the game reported.

“I just want to assure the public that at no time during this incident were individuals inside the stadium attending the game in any kind of danger. This was not an active shooter incident and it’s not being investigated as such. Everything took place outside the stadium,” Ashan Benedict, executive assistant chief of police for DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, said.

But even though the shooting occurred outside the park, people were still traumatized within the stadium.

The game was suspended, to be resumed the next day. At least one of the shooting victims was a fan attending the game. But just as the game reflects the ills of society, it can also reflect its heroes, like Fernando Tatis and Manny Machado.

When the gunshots started to echo all around Nationals Park, San Diego Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. quickly thought about the team’s family members and friends in the seats.

Tatis bolted from the bench down the left field line Saturday night, helped open a gate to the stands and began ushering a group back to the dugout for shelter.

“Our family, loved ones, little kids. Feel like somebody needed to go get them,” Tatis said Sunday. “I feel like the safest place was the clubhouse and we were trying to get our families into a safe place.”

But whilst I have your attention, I want to direct it to something else - something which occurred to me as soon as I heard about the heroics of Tatis and Machado. Both men players have been long maligned in the media, and accused of having bad reputations.

But as Adam Jones noted years ago, much of Machado’s reputation is because he isn’t white. He was maligned for not hustling and maligned when he did. And yes, he’s done some questionable things on the baseball field, but he also accepted his suspension and served his time. And off the field, he’s long been known for his charity work.

Tatis has been maligned for similar reasons, because Tatis is also a person of color. The media even tried to bash Tatis for what is, by all accounts, an actually consensual relationship with Trevor Bauer’s accuser. And we’ve also seen a certain type of fan - we all know who I’m talking about - who malign Machado and Tatis and defend Trevor Bauer.

But what happened this weekend should cause every person who trafficked in these racist ideas to feel deeply ashamed. This weekend, Machado and Tatis showed the kind of people they are when they opened up the dugout to fans to provide them safety in the clubhouse.

There was no active shooter in the ballpark, but Machado and Tatis didn’t know that. They were putting themselves in what they believed to be harm’s way to save other people. The narrative of the player of color being dirty or lazy was always a racist trope. We’ve known these were racist tropes for years. It’s not new. And frankly, it’s enough. Fernando Tatis and Manny Machado are heroes, full stop. That’s how they should be considered moving forward. They shouldn’t have had to engage in heroics for us to stop using racist tropes about them, but then we never should have used them in the first place.