One of my children, whom I have met and who I very much like to raise through the association of my beautiful partner, plays baseball. He loves it. However, I’m not always sure the game loves him back.
It looks like structuring around the game, from where he is now as a 10-year-old, despises him. He is an American-born Afro-Latino child, if usually the only black face on the court – with his Puerto Rican father and us, as the only black faces in the stands.
It was just that three Black American (in short black) participants on top of the mountain during the recently completed World Series: My beloved Atlanta Br * ves (Terrance Gore) defeated the Houston Astros (outfielder Michael Brantley and manager / former player Dusty Baker). The two stories are related, in a straight line – and predictable – as baseball slowly evaporates from the consciousness of Black America. And this is not a new phenomenon, but in fact a direct one linked to US institutional racism and class exclusion.
MLB players have even noticed. “There are not as many African American kids playing the game as I would like to see,” said Curtis Granderson, a three-time Major League Baseball All-Star. told Today in 2020. But go back to 2013, to an ESPN story, and author Tim Keown cold “The decline in African-American baseball participation … an annual salon match.” Per Sports Illustrated: “According to Society for American Baseball Research, MLB reached a peak of 18.7% African Americans in 1981. Last season, according to USA today, that figure was 7.7%.
How is this reality possible in the sport known to be integrated by Jackie Robinson in 1947 and celebrated to the top every season by Major League Baseball? The answers and solutions remain equally unclear from some angles. However, it is pronounced in others when you come up the ladder.
A child’s play, evaporates
Via Today, continued from a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association: “From the age of 6-12, the total proportion of black children playing baseball jumped from 10.1% in 2008 (the first year for which data is available) to 11.1% in 2018 (the last year the information is available), although the core fell from 8.9% to 8.4% (“Core,” according to the study, referred to children who played baseball 13 times or more during a calendar year. ) The figures are more disturbing as black children get older, with the total rate falling from 9.4% to 9.2% for the age group 13-17, while the core figure fell from 7.6% to 6.1%.
There are small pockets where baseball is still an institution for black communities. Karl Spencer, an administrative officer at the University of Texas and president of 100 Black Men of Austin, sees it on the south side of his hometown of Chicago.
“Jackie Robinson West is the only place where a black boy can play baseball no matter what. Even in 2021, they still have the league,” Spencer said. “Baseball is a thing in Chicago.”
Jackie Robinson West’s Little League program is one of the best in the country. (But many consider competing officials unfair targeted the all-black team after being stripped of the national championship in 2014 for using players found outside of housing parameters.)
Outside of a relatively handful of places, there are a few realities that undermine black inclusion in the sport at the grassroots level. First, for Spencer and other black parents, “grassroots” has become a loose term. Unnecessary pressure has been added to a child’s play by parents who demand results for their pride and financial efforts.
“You have to spend big bucks for your kids to play,” Spencer said. “[The young players are in a position that] if you do not have funds and the opportunity to put them in a travel or “select” team, they may not even get to try in high school. “
“It should not be as competitive as a 13-year-old, and even as an 8- and 9-year-old. For example, one of my friends had a son who played Little League ball. These kids got championship rings, man—to win a tournament. It’s wild! “
What Spencer is also talking about is youth baseball’s systemic entry barrier problem. It’s not a sport for kings, but it’s a sport of prosperity, at least in the United States. First, there must be adequate facilities in the communities that need it. Spencer, along with many Black current and former MLB players, such as Ian desmond, wonders about the demise of youth baseball as a haven for inner city.
In addition, bats, gloves, bricks and other personal equipment are expensive. Joining a team is a cost. Traveling, if necessary, is another cost. Then there is batting cage time and individual coaching, and so on.
At the individual level, as Sports Illustrated Author Stephanie Apstein wrote: “Baseball is a sport that more than anyone else rewards repetitions. They can be difficult to get: You can work on your jump shot alone. You can not practice hitting a basket ball unless someone throws it.”
This produces a baseball culture that inherently excludes black talents, who will be presented for a different cause if they somehow get to high school teams and excel – lack of collegiate scholarships for baseball. There are 11.7 scholarships to be shared between the 35 players on an average team.
This reality becomes difficult for many black parents of a talented athlete in early high school, who chooses whether to continue baseball full-time, when 85 full scholarships are awarded to basketball and Division I football, with full rides also available for minor NAIA and Division II colleges. If the player is not drafted or can not pay for the rest of the partial scholarship, the player’s baseball career is essentially over.
Add to this the richness and attractiveness of football and basketball, whose high-level college matches are televised, and the appeal of young black athletes to these sports has been evident, especially in the talented south.
Major League Baseball has Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, or RBI, in play, along with the Breakthrough Series for players who have aged out of the former. However, the RBI website states that since 1991, “Major League Baseball and its clubs have designated more than $ 30 million in resources for the RBI program.” Although this number was a annual allocation, it would sadly fall below what is needed.
Major League involvement
But what happens when you do not see yourself, or some big star, on TV? According to USA today: “There are three teams – Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays – who did not have a single black player on the opening day. And 14 of the 30 teams have two or fewer. ”
Phillip Lamarr Cunningham, associate professor of media studies at Wake Forest, believes there is also a cultural divide that MLB is still reluctant to close.
“In many ways, baseball has become a sport bequeathed to you by an older parent,” Cunningham said. “[It creates] a closed gateway between the game and a newly interested person. “
Cunningham also notes the promotion, or lack thereof, to baseball’s greatest current player, the white Mike Trout, who has been virtually invisible for much of his career. The trout is notorious low legs, and it feels like MLB is simultaneously hiding a massive lack of marketing and advertising talent behind Trout’s reluctance to market.
For example, in 2018, Commissioner Rob Manfred said after the Home Run Derby that the New Jersey native was “a great great player and a very nice person, but he has made decisions about what he will do, will not do, and how he will “Spend his free time or not. I think we can help him make his brand very big. But he has to make a decision to get involved. It takes time and effort.”
And so, because MLB can not push Trout, it has decided not to push anyone with a lot of enthusiasm in national campaigns for the game. This is with Tim Anderson, Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. and Shohei Ohtani (the likely American League MVP) who leads the largest collection of best-selling star talents in decades. And yet their international exposure is non-existent, surprisingly given that a large pool of talent comes from Latin and Asian countries. It does not help that the league’s outdated copyright policy is linked to social media.
Predictable and huge Unlike In the NFL and NBA, MLB has made little effort to push the game against younger black audiences via some medium, including social media. It does not seem to understand how to get involved at any level, which has a direct impact on youth participation.
The spectrum and solutions
Threatening behind the foregoing is one upcoming labor dispute, a cold war that will be glowing white as the current collective agreement ends on 1 December. Perhaps positioning for warfare, the lack of marketing for player talent seems targeted and may work in the owners’ favor. Maybe they are not ready to promote the players they are trying to defeat at the negotiating table.
However, MLB has a more fundamental problem with progress and the future: the lack of different managers and owners who recognize the value of marketing a diverse player strength. Chicago White Sox Executive Vice President Ken Williams is the only black person responsible for baseball operations. The only active minority GMs are Al Avila of the Detroit Tigers, Farhan Zaidi of the San Francisco Giants and Kim Ng of the Florida Marlins – the first woman and person of East Asian descent to become GM.
Analyst and former player Doug Glanville said in ESPN: “It is no longer fashionable to have homogeneous leadership. Despite the Selig rule (which requires consideration of minority candidates) and other genuine political changes that have interrupted in some areas of the game, there are enough private business solutions to leave diversity lacking where there is true power. ”
Until MLB and its partners choose to hire a younger, less white workforce, it will never come into contact with the younger, less white fan base beyond those who were handed the game as a pastime.
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