April 15, 2005
IF YOU BUILD IT, HMONG WILL COME:
Hmong teenagers given a taste of the great American pastime (Curt Brown, April 14, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Eight months ago, Mai Lia Yang and her friend Mailee Lee were creating needlework to sell at the Wat Tham Krabok refugee camp in Thailand.
Wednesday night, the 15-year-old girls were tentatively using plastic knives and forks to eat hot dogs in a Metrodome outfield suite as the Minnesota Twins were beating the Detroit Tigers 8-4.
The girls looked like kids in science class dissecting frogs. "I don't like the taste," Yang said in her native Hmong. Lee shrugged and said she'd prefer the spicy papaya salad and sticky rice served at Thai sporting events.
Not that they were complaining. After all, this was their first dose of American baseball -- in all its Teflon-ceiling, artificial-grass weirdness.
Yang, Lee and the seven teenage boys who joined them at the game are among the newest members of the Hmong Youth Group at Neighborhood House, a nonprofit social-service agency on St. Paul's West Side. The teens all resettled in St. Paul last fall after spending their childhoods in the Wat shantytown, considered the last Thai refugee camp remaining from the Vietnam War.
The group was taking a break from its usual Wednesday-night English tutoring sessions. Instead of working on verb tenses, it was time to play ball -- or at least watch from the left-field corner.
The 3M Co. provided the suite seats and ballpark treats. All the newest Hmong refugees had to do was figure out the intricacies of baseball. And translating that into Hmong was a whole 'nother ballgame.
Like Terrance Mann said:
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers; it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2005 2:45 PM