Migrant Workers in our Midst

The stairs leading from WXXI’s lobby all the way up to our creative services department on the fifth floor offer a good view of the stands at Frontier Field.

Today they are full – of snow. But just about every time I catch a glimpse of that stadium, regardless of the season, nostalgia kicks in. Despite the thick glass and the busy street between me and the field, I can "hear" the clean crack of a bat and the organ rallying an exuberant crowd. I can "smell" the French fries and the Rohrbach’s. I can "see" my young son Ben’s amazement as a foul ball somehow drops in his lap. I can "feel" the sun going down and the warm evening breeze kick in.

I’m not a big baseball fan – other priorities keep me from following statistics or player trades. Going to a baseball game, however, gives me a Christmas-like feeling smack dab in the middle of summer. It is, in a word, joy.

Or so I thought.

But on Monday, I watched “Autumn’s Harvest.” It’s a documentary produced by David Marshall at Post Central in Linden Oaks. The film is about migrant workers and AIDS, and most of it was shot in Upstate New York.

The thought-provoking work raises a wide range of issues, but the most poignant moment for me is when a group of migrant workers are treated to a baseball game by a charity organization. Work keeps them from getting to the field until the sun has already gone down. Instead of sitting in the stands, they are directed to plastic chairs behind what looks like a chain link fence near third base. There are no children or wives with them. The players walk off the field, and it’s time for the workers to go back to the cinder block building they live in.

I wasn't there that night, but I’m not sure I would have noticed them if I was.

I’ll be interviewing Marshall, along with Wilson Augustave, senior case manager from the Finger Lakes Migrant Health Care Project, on this week’s Need to Know. That’s December 7 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV, Channel 21, Cable 11.

You can also watch "Autumn's Harvest" on Thursday, December 13 at 9 p.m. on WXXI.