Where Have All The African-American Baseball Players Gone?

You know what occurred to me while watching the World Baseball Classic in March? Well, I was sitting there, mocking Team USA for getting a spanking because most if not all of their Latino players were playing for their native lands, and then I noticed… hey… Team USA is kinda almost all-white?

Really, MLB? What happened to all of your African American players? Where are your Willie Mays and Lou Brocks and Jackie Robinsons? Do little Black boys no longer dream of being baseball superstars? Or does the MLB front office have such a hard-on for the peloteros of South America and Japan that it doesn’t bother with any home-grown talent of color? Are Latinos and Asians filling the “minority” quota in major league baseball?

Not to say that there are no great African American players in the league. I hate to admit it but that puke-faced Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies is doing the damn thing, as is Grampa Jeter of the NY Yankees.

But in 1977, Blacks represented about 28 percent of the starting line-up in baseball. Today? Sheeeit, it’s barely at 10 percent! And at the college level? A whopping 6 percent.

In Compton, CA, the MLB is sponsoring a week-long Urban Youth Academy aimed at getting more young Black men into baseball, but the consensus is that the game is losing many talented players to football and basketball.

I asked a friend of mine who plays ball his opinion and his response?

“Blacks have less interest in playing baseball due to the fact that they see the potential in other sports such as football or basketball,” says Aaron Geddins, an alumni of the UC San Diego baseball team and currently plays in various wood bat leagues in and around NYC. “They see people who ‘look like them’ playing these sports. They see commercials, movies, music videos, and games that feature blacks in these sports. The way baseball is marketed, it does not target blacks and their communities the same way it does white communities.”

According to a recent article in the Virginian-Pilot, a high school coach was quoted as stating that baseball “just wasn’t cool enough” and that shows like “Friday Night Lights” have a draw that baseball just can’t compete with. So maybe Aaron is right... baseball just doesn't have the glitz and glam of the other sports.

But major leaguer Orlando Hudson, second baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, ain’t tryin’ to hear it.

Hudson launched the Around the Mound Tour on April 15th (celebrated as the day Jackie Robinson integrated baseball) to try and drum up more interest in baseball from Black youths.

“That’s something I always wanted to do: get more African Americans involved in baseball because we’re losing them,” said Hudson in an article for the L.A. Watts Times. “Mr. Robinson did a lot for this game of baseball and for the numbers to be declining every year, it’s sad; it’s a hurting feeling.”

And Seattle Mariner Ken Griffey, Jr. has signed on to help Houston, also agreeing with Geddins’ statement that marketing is an issue when trying to recruit African American ballplayers:

“With basketball and football, they show the excitement of the sport on and off the field,” Griffey said. “You come to baseball and you look at the … (All)-Star game commercial that just came out … and there’s no excitement, so kids see that. I have two boys and they want to play football because they see the excitement that they show on and off the field more than in baseball. The marketing has to show that this game is fun, and I think if they show its fun, kids will want to play it and get involved and … the numbers will slowly increase,” Griffey said.

Added Hudson, “In football, there (used) to be a lot of Michael Vick commercials, a lot of LaDainian Tomlinson commercials. LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) have the series of commercials going on. Ken Griffey Jr. is the Michael Jordan of baseball and he doesn’t have a commercial at all. So we’re just losing them. Baseball is really not publicized the way it should be.”

Another MLB program seeking to attract Black ball players is Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI). So it would seem that I’m not the only one aware of the problem…if one would even say it is a problem.

What say you, sports fans?

*Please Note: direct quotes from Orlando Hudson & Ken Griffey, Jr. were pulled from this article by staff writer Chico C. Norwood of the L.A. Watts Times.

MetsWatch '09: W44-L50-GB10
Next game: 7/24/09 VS. HOU @ Minute Maid Park, JOHAN SANTANA (#57, 11-7 for the season) pitching


LeonX said...

It's a shame really. Baseball has higher salaries. Their players union is the best, and there's a better chance of having a long career. The downside is if your black and too good, writers will speculate that your juicing.

The Jaded NYer said...

That is a good point re: the steroid claims. Look what happened to my boy Barry (if no one else will say it, I will: BARRY, BASEBALL IS NOT THE SAME FOR ME WITHOUT YOU!)

Then again it seems that any ballplayer who's doing too well these days gets accused. it kills me to see my favorite sport being run through the mud this way.

clnmike said...

Baseball has too many things working against it when it comes to the attention of black kids.

1- Too much competition from other sports, even soccer has the minds of most black kids from the Carribean and Africa.

2- The game is slow, watching baseball is like pulling teeth, I am a die hard yankee fan but I only half pay attntion to baseball in the summer time, I dont get hyped till the end of August.

3- Baseball has three strikes when it comes to kids, let alone black kids on the playground,

a) you need bat, ball, gloves and a wide open field.

b) You need at least 15-19 kids all wanting to play to get a decent game, compared to just two kids in basketball and four for football.

c)No one worth imitating.

There are only so many black kids in the USA and the better off they get the less likely there going to see sports as an outlet, let alone baseball.

Post a Comment