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Why South Asian Baseball Fans Are Excited About Kumar Rocker's Future

Kumar Rocker pitches during game three of the College World Series championship on June 30, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. This week, he was drafted by the New York Mets.
Sean M. Haffey
Getty Images
Kumar Rocker pitches during game three of the College World Series championship on June 30, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. This week, he was drafted by the New York Mets.

Kumar Rocker just may be in the middle of his own legendary story.

The New York Mets drafted Rocker on Sunday, making him the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2021 Major League Baseball draft.

Anyone who's been following Rocker's trajectory is likely only surprised that he wasn't snatched up sooner. His high school career saw his pitches clocking speeds in the high 90s and he only got better in college, earning the title of Most Outstanding Player during the 2019 College World Series and being named the Baseball America Freshman of the Year that same year.

But it's not just his undeniable talent that's inspiring baseball fans.

Rocker, 21, is the mixed-race son of Tracy Rocker, a black football coach who's in the College Football Hall of Fame, and Lalitha Rocker, an instructional designer whose parents immigrated from India. He's representing two groups that are underrepresented in baseball — as a "blindian," as his mother put it during a 2019 interview with The Tennessean.

"I told Kumar when he fills out forms, put 'blindian' because you're black Indian," she said. "I want him to be aware of his heritage and for other people to question where his heritage is, and not look at him only as an African American child."

Kumar Rocker's pick is monumental for people who haven't seen themselves represented in baseball very often. Some are anticipating Indian kids wearing Kumar Rocker jerseys at school. Others are looking forward to having him represent South Asians on the field.

"Man, I'm so emotional reading this... Rocker is of Indian descent & gets picked top 10 to my fav team. Gives hope to a community in a sport that lacks representation," Andrew Khan, a writer for baseball website MLB Marathon, wrote on Twitter.

While around 37% of MLB players are people of color, only 7% are black and around 1.4% are Asian, according to a 2021 report from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. But while South Asian representation in baseball may be scarce, it's clear that what a rising star in the sport looks like may be changing for the better.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sharon Pruitt-Young

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