Ray Duckler: Connor Treybig, a Ray of light, takes a stand
Connor Treybig, 11, sits for a portrait with his team's new hat in Bow on Friday afternoon, May 2, 2014. Treybig plays youth baseball and is helping to lead the change in his Bow Athletic Club's team's logo from the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo character to a Tampa Bay Ray. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
He felt the sting of racism, hoped the source would be banned from the league and said he wouldn’t play without the appropriate measures in place.
In March, the 11-year-old lefty pitcher in the Bow Athletic Club baseball program saw his team logo, Chief Wahoo of Cleveland Indians fame, and said uh-uh.
Not on my watch.
“Probably the biggest (concern) is the fact that it’s got a huge red face and has these really white teeth that stick way out of his face,” Treybig said. “It has a face, a creepy face, with triangle eyes and a big nose.”
Because of Treybig, the Bow Indians are now the Bow Rays. He’s a young voice in our intellectual evolution, the kid who’s not worried about potential eye rolling and laid his brick in a foundation opposing prejudice and stereotyping.
“If someone in my grade was harassed with racism,” Treybig said, “I would definitely stick up for him.”
He spoke at the Concord Sports Center, where he practices pitching and hitting. His mother, Dee Treybig, sat beside him in the game room, proud of a son who sees the world a tad differently than other grade-school kids.
“I think it’s important to do this article,” Dee said. “It’s important to be an upstander, not a bystander.”
She teaches a holocaust and genocide class at Bishop Brady High. The dinner table in the Treybig home serves as a stage for discussion, a place for dialogue about injustice and history and civil rights.
Connor and his 13-year-old brother, Garin, sit, eat, listen.
“I want kids to share their opinions about stuff,” Connor said. “I asked my mother a question about the Ku Klux Klan because we saw a movie and she told me what they did. And I was really mad about it and how they’re still around, with those white bed sheets and stuff.”
Undoubtedly, some in the BAC see Connor as a megaphone for his mother. They probably think the Treybig family jumped on board the politically correct express, making an unnecessary issue out of something that had no business in a youth sports program.
And besides, if it’s good enough for a major league team, detractors may reason, it’s good enough for little kids, right?
But while it’s safe to say Connor is a product of his environment, it’s tough to criticize a family climate steeped in awareness and sensitivity.
As the story goes, Connor was upset as soon as he received an email, the one announcing the name of the team. Chief Wahoo, the Indians’ mascot since 1951, was on the email.
“I was sitting in my living room one day and she came up to me and told me I was going to be on the Cleveland Indians,” Connor said, referring to Dee. “I said no, I wasn’t going to play for the Indians. It’s racist, and I’ve seen the logo before when I watch baseball. I see the logos.”
“The Indians won the championship last year and I was really mad about that, but I kind of forgot about it,” Connor continued, referring to the 2013 BAC champions. “I was not mad at the kids, but the logo, it’s really bad they won our championship.”
That won’t happen this year.
Dee inquired whether Connor could switch teams, but the talent pool had already been divided evenly. Plus, the hats featuring Chief Wahoo had already been paid for and shipped to the team.
So volunteers representing the team promised to retire the logo after 2014, which wasn’t fast enough for Connor.
“I would not have played this year,” Connor said. “I wanted to make our own team.”
Enter Dee, who shelled out $171, the cost of the Wahoo hats, so Rays hats could be made and worn this season, which opened yesterday.
Potentially, this could have been a major stink bomb, had coaches, parents or BAC officials not gone along with Connor, nudging him to follow his conscience.
But BAC President Doug Krause let those involved handle it, opening the door for a change.
“The BAC didn’t have an official position,” Krause said. “We were more than happy to work it out with volunteers to make people happy.”
Megan Rheinhardt is known as the Rays’ team mom. As is the case with many of us – most of us, really – she never viewed images like Wahoo as offensive.
“We never looked at it as an issue of criticism,” Rhienhardt said. “We looked at it as supporting a major league team.”
Her views, however, were molded to think about things in a different light.
“It’s a close and dear subject to the Treybigs,” Rheinhardt said, “and we want to make it comfortable for them and didn’t want anyone not playing because of this issue.”
So here we are in 2014, moving forward, fighting the good fight, stumbling at times, then regrouping.
P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens, who’s black, got torched with racist remarks on Twitter after scoring the winning goal Thursday night against the Bruins.
But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after Sterling’s racist comments were caught on tape.
Good thing, too, because players competing in the playoffs said they would not have taken the floor last week had this penalty not been imposed.
Closer to home, Belmont High held a forum last month to gauge interest in changing the school name from Red Raiders to something else.
Connor, meanwhile, knows this column will bring attention to what he’s done. His mother hopes that his friends won’t give him a hard time.
If so, Dee added, that’s the price you sometimes pay when pushing for change, when standing up for a cause, when fighting for something that’s close to your heart.
“Some people don’t understand,” Dee said, “that he might have people say to him that he shouldn’t have done this and he shouldn’t have made such a big deal out of it.”
So I asked Connor if he’s worried about receiving negative treatment from peers.
His answer was refreshing.
“Nope,” Connor said. “They’re just not like that.”