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Former Mariners Trainers Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez Accuse Team of Racial Discrimination

The trainers named by Dr. Lorena Martin share their story with the media

The Mariner’s academy in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic

The story of Dr. Lorena Martin’s dismissal from the Mariners added another chapter yesterday. On a day dominated by news of the James Paxton trade, the first members of the Mariners organization to support, at least in part, Dr. Martin’s claims came forward. The trainers she named as having been fired (their contracts were not renewed) offered the media their stories.

Early yesterday morning TODO Deporte Online posted an interview with Leonardo Santiago in which he alleges racial discrimination by Jerry Dipoto and Andy McKay [NB: the interview, like the article, is in Spanish, and the audio quality of the call is poor]. Later that afternoon, the News Tribune followed with a story based on an interview given by Santiago and Jose Valdez, the other trainer mentioned by Dr. Martin, over the weekend.

The two men were trainers at the Mariners’ academy in the Dominican Republic. Santiago had been with the team for 10 years and Valdez for 7 months when the Mariners declined to renew their contracts.

Santiago told the News Tribune:

“It seemed like Dipoto and McKay would talk to just about everyone who was of American descent and talk to them more personally and try to be involved with them,” Santiago said through an interpreter over the phone. “But never with me.”

He was asked if he believed that was because he is Latino.

“Under God and before you and in my mind and in my heart — yes,” Santiago said. “Because I am a Latino of color.

“I felt like, ‘Wow.’ They have relationships with all the Americans. They would talk with all of them, but they never came near me. Andy McKay never stopped by, even though he would stop by every other area.”

He continued:

“Before Dipoto and McKay came everything was in order,” Santiago said. “I didn’t feel discriminated against. Everybody respected everybody from different areas. But when they came, everything changed.

“In the past, the previous regimes, the general manager would come and talk with us. They would visit more often, specifically the farm director. Andy McKay never came by my office. He never said anything to me. He never looked for a way to see how I worked, to see if I was good or bad at what I did. He never found a way to talk to me, but he would talk with everybody that was American.”

As with the other allegations, the Mariners issued a strong denial:

“As we have said previously, Andy and Jerry both treated everyone they came into contact with the same,” said Tim Hevly, the Mariners’ vice president of communications. “There was certainly no difference in how they would treat a trainer if they were Dominican, Puerto Rican or anything else compared to how they would treat a trainer who wasn’t. We reject that out of hand.”

Jerry Dipoto went on 710 ESPN to discuss the Paxton trade and commented briefly on the situation, saying, “There is an ongoing MLB investigation, so there is a limit to what I can comment, but I will say the accusations are unfounded. Simply not true.”

Santiago and Valdez say they were not given the reason their contracts were non-renewed; the Mariners say they were told why. The trainers believe their connection with Dr. Martin was the reason; the Mariners will not comment on personnel decisions for privacy reasons. The issue may be that neither trainer is certified. Santiago questioned why that was an issue now after he’d been with the organization for 10 years. Both Santiago and Valdez said the Mariners were helping them become certified.

This new chapter leaves us with the same frustrating questions as the previous chapters. So far, we have Manny Acta speaking in favor of the Mariners’ side of the story, and the trainers supporting Dr. Martin’s allegations. To date, there is no tangible proof outside of personal accounts to support neither the ex-employees’ allegations nor the Mariners’ denial, and there may never be. So here we sit— whether unsettled and unsure of what to think, or sure of our interpretation of the situation, or somewhere in-between—just waiting for the next chapter to drop.

Major League Baseball is investigating the Mariners for the original allegations brought forth by Dr. Martin last week. There is no time frame for the completion of the investigation.