The white former prep school boy-turned-double-amputee retired Major League Baseball star, Todd Fletcher, is alive and well in Jamaica, a hellhole of crime and corruption known around the world. Among the fortunate visitors to the resort are Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and her family, in addition to the New York Daily News and several retired political, media and corporate figures, including Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Fletcher is old, a bit deformed and losing his left hand in an accident on the athletic field, which in its own twisted way can be seen as a power. Being the unlikely benefactor of public and corporate largesse in Jamaica makes Fletcher a public figure, and one who wears the black hat and coat of the “Negro” in a country where people wear the white hat and coat of “the white man.”
Being the subject of public affection in a country where the Macarena was made for skinny white girls is exceedingly odd.
Can a person be both black and white—neither one good nor one bad—the odd being mixed?
This is a bizarre notion as Fletcher was an everyman: a scrappy, racially mixed athlete at Duke College, a Brooklyn kid, who struck out the likes of Jerry Koosman in a pro career that began with relative obscurity in his native Harlem.
He played in the minors, and put out a couple of cigars and didn’t get much respect, until he decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps after 9/11 and proved that baseball doesn’t banish hardship to the country. Fletcher was a farmhand who became a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant. He lived in the mountains of Virginia with bodybuilder pals, and mowed grass, cut trees and replaced fallen limbs until he was de-throned from his base job. He became the shooting wing master at Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., in 2005. (I went there to write about the bombings of two Combat Outpost COPs in Helmand Province.)
Fletcher went to Iraq, and on a lonely day, with his gun under his chin, he whispered “hero,” an earnest gesture toward his Marine buddies, as he descended from the cockpit. A shot rang out and he was hit. A hand then fell out from under his gun and into his pocket, to the horror of his fellow Marines. Fletcher took off the bullet with his teeth and didn’t get hurt. It was a spooky moment, to hear a Marine with a gun at his side scream, “Thank God.” This was Fletcher’s final act of heroism. There were four Marine mortally wounded in the crossfire with terrorists and his platoon was the only unit that managed to turn the tide.
After that, the reticent slugger went in the middle of the political shark infested water, talking politics. “I’ve spent my career playing second base and thought about turning the other cheek a few times,” he told Newsweek magazine after Trump chose him as a baseball ambassador. He now tells anyone who will listen of his futile attempts to debate Bill O’Reilly at a 2009 fund raiser in New York, and his room service bills from Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Fletcher no longer flaunts his diverse background in public, and it’s puzzling to see him in Jamaica, the country with the “racist” sound, most famous for the “Macarena.” As long as the people don’t care that Fletcher was a gun for hire who supported George W. Bush, and traveled to the Middle East to fight for America’s enemies, it’s alright.
The reality is that whatever race Fletcher feels he was born into—the black hat—he’s back home, happily retired on the Caribbean island. He is now America’s most improbable diplomat.