SBD/April 15, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Number Of African-American Players "Mind-Boggling" As MLB Marks Jackie Robinson Day

African-American participation in MLB currently is at an all-time low
As MLB rosters this season see a record-low number of African-American players, it is “mind-boggling” that the story of late Baseball HOFer Jackie Robinson "has not inspired more African-Americans to play baseball," according to Nick Cafardo of the BOSTON GLOBE. But it is not that the league “isn’t trying to find solutions,” as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has “put together a panel of baseball people and dignitaries in other fields to come up with some answers.” The league’s RBI program “has been a noble undertaking,” and has “seen more than 200 of its kids drafted to major league teams.” But that “hasn’t created that interest of a kid gathering up his pals and heading over to the park for a pickup game.” The "visual part of it is also important," as Heat F LeBron James "is everywhere." He is "all over billboards and TV and YouTube." Cafardo: "Who is baseball’s most prominent African-American athlete? Is it Matt Kemp or Giancarlo Stanton or Derek Jeter or Justin Upton or Prince Fielder or Adam Jones? Are they the centerpiece of our visual being? No.” Every time an African-American athlete “breaks onto the baseball scene, you wonder, will he be the one to spark the interest?” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/14). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan writes the "representation of American-born black players in baseball hasn't dwindled to the point Jackie Robinson would look at the sport and not recognize it." Prince Fielder, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, Derek Jeter, David Price and Andrew McCutchen "are stars, not just recognized by fans but embraced and loved" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/15).

PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Rockies CF Eric Young Jr. said, "You flip through a bunch of channels, you'll see LeBron do a commercial or Dwyane Wade. That's what kids relate to, that's what they see. That's what they might flock to. I'm always in the business of trying to branch out and get the game to more eyes, new eyes." Rockies CF Dexter Fowler said that the “lack of quality fields and equipment in the inner cities also is a major reason fewer black kids give baseball a try” (DENVER POST, 4/15). Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks said, "I think with African-Americans at a young age, the glamour sports are basketball and football. Kids look at it as an old-fashioned sport. Playing baseball isn't the hip thing to do" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/13). Former MLBer Eric Davis said of the issue, “The reason there’s a steady decline is the black male’s fault because he’s not around. Baseball is a sport that has to be introduced to you through a male figure.” He added, “Baseball has never had to market its game to kids. That’s why baseball is in the position where it’s having these questions” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 4/13).
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