Asians in the Outfield

When Harvard baseball coach Joe Walsh set about recruiting Matthew T. Vance ’08—a shortstop in high school and eventually an
By Pablo S. Torre

When Harvard baseball coach Joe Walsh set about recruiting Matthew T. Vance ’08—a shortstop in high school and eventually an All-Ivy center fielder for the Crimson—he knew one thing about him. “He could play,” Walsh says.

What he didn’t know about the teenager was his ethnicity. And, more specifically, that Vance’s arrival had just increased the 1.2 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders to play baseball in Division I.

“Someone came up to me and said, ‘Matt Vance is Filipino,’” Walsh says. “I had no idea. To me, he’s just Matty Vance.”

But Vance, whose mother is Filipina and father is white, is actually just one among several Harvard students of Asian descent who have emerged as prominent leaders for their respective teams.

In fact, whereas Asians comprise roughly 2 percent of all NCAA Division I recruits, approximately 6 percent of Harvard’s student-athletes is Asian, compared to 17 percent of the student body.

(Notably, Hispanics are the least common ethnic group among Harvard’s student-athletes after Native Americans, fluctuating between 2 and 3 percent. In Division I, Hispanics comprise between 3 and 4 percent of all recruited athletes.)

So while FM certainly fears creating its own version of “Airplane’s” leaflet of “Famous Jewish Sports Legends,” here’s a breakdown of how one of the least represented minorities made it big in sports you might not have expected.

Julie W. Chu ’06-’07, women’s hockey: The half-Chinese Olympian, who already has a silver medal, won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s best player.

Emily K. Tay ’09, women’s basketball: Earned first-team All-Ivy honors playing point guard for a Crimson team that went to the NCAA Tournament.

Emily R. Cross ’08, fencing: The half-Korean won a national title in foil last year and a gold medal at Junior Worlds.

Matthew T. Vance ’08, baseball: The all-conference outfielder batted a robust .341 and led the team in stolen bases.

Siddharth Suchde ’07, men’s squash: After finishing fourth, third, and second, Suchde finally won his national title.

Cheng Ho ’10, football: After backing up Dawson, the Taiwanese frosh will likely take the reins as starting tailback next season, head coach Tim Murphy says.

Kevin R. Du ’07, men’s hockey: Completed a distinguished career on the ice that includes inclusion on All-New England and All-Ivy League teams.

Jeremy S. Lin ’10, men’s basketball: With each no-look pass, the frosh proved himself as one of the most exciting young players in the Ivy League and a mainstay in next year’s Crimson rotation.