SBD/April 11, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB Looks To Stop Decline Of African-American Players, But Faces Obstacles

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Selig (r) says the diversity task force will meet as many times as needed
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday “held the first meeting of a 17-member diversity task force that will study and address the issue of on-field participation by African-Americans” in the league, according to Tyler Kepner of the N.Y. TIMES. Selig on Tuesday said, “I don’t want to miss any opportunity here. We want to find out if we’re not doing well, why not, and what we need to do better. We’ll meet as many times as we need to come to meaningful decisions.” Kepner reports the decline in the number of African-American players on MLB rosters is “staggering,” as the league in the last generation has “lost more than half its percentage of African-American players." Tigers President & GM Dave Dombrowski serves as committee chair, and his team “features several prominent African-American players," including 1B Prince Fielder, RF Torii Hunter and CF Austin Jackson. Dombrowski said that while the Tigers “have not seen much increase in African-American fans at their games, there has been ‘tremendous growth’ in participation in youth leagues in Detroit.” Dombrowski: “We’ve tried to do things, but it’s apparent that the numbers aren’t increasing as far as participation is concerned.” But Mets P LaTroy Hawkins said that MLB had “become a game for the rich.” He said that the “main problem was that NCAA Division I baseball programs offered so few scholarships compared with other sports” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/11). Longtime MLB GM and Baseball HOFer Pat Gillick said, "At the high-school level, the coaches get these kids in revenue-driven sports and take them away from baseball. There's so much pressure on these kids to even play spring football. We need to get the African American players back in the game, which I think would make it not only a better game, but more exciting and entertaining for everyone.” Agent Scott Boras said that MLB “should start subsidizing college baseball scholarships" (USA TODAY, 4/11).

MLB DIVERSITY TASK FORCE
Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg MLBPA Player Services Dir Tony Clark
Tigers GM & President Dave Dombrowski White Sox Exec VP Ken Williams
Indians Owner Larry Dolan Southern Univ. baseball coach Roger Cador
Baseball HOFer Frank Robinson Special Assistant to White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf Dennis Gilbert
MLB VP/Community Affairs Tom Brasuell D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall
MLB Senior VP/Diversity & Strategic Alliances Wendy Lewis MLB Scouting Bureau Senipor Dir Frank Marcos
MLB Exec VP & CFO Jonathan Mariner MiLB President & CEO Pat O'Conner
MLB VP/Baseball Operations Kim Ng MLB Network analyst and former MLB manager Jerry Manuel
MLB VP/Youth & Facility Development Darrell Miller Stanford Univ. AD Bernard Muir

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: In Houston, Brian Smith noted Astros manager Bo Porter, one of three African-American managers in MLB, believes that the league’s “heavily structured minor-league system is an impediment to athletically talented African-Americans who opt to play football or basketball instead of baseball.” Porter: “You look at the NFL, the NBA, a lot of those sports, you’re drafted and you’re right in their league. If you start to take the highly athletic guys that have other options, that’s what’s happening to our sport: guys are just picking other options, just because they get to go straight to the top level in the other sports” (CHRON.com, 4/10).

STAR ATTRACTION: The Jackie Robinson biopic "42" will be released across North America tomorrow, and in K.C., Sam Mellinger writes this is “one of the most important weeks” in the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s 23-year history. Actors Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman are in the city “for a red carpet event" to promote "42," and there is an “advance screening of the movie tonight and then a panel discussion” led by sportswriter Joe Posnanski. Tickets “sold out almost immediately, more than $10,000 generated within three hours,” which put museum President Bob Kendrick “in the unprecedented position of turning down corporate money.” Mellinger writes, “No place in the world has done more to tell the story of baseball’s segregation and then integration than the Negro Leagues museum.” It is “only right that the people who made ‘42’ come here before showing the rest of the world.” One can “hope that more people will be exposed to that now” (K.C. STAR, 4/11). See tomorrow's issue of THE DAILY for a comprehensive collection of critic reviews for "42."
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