Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15: MLB Doesn't Deserve Sole Blame For Its Lack of U.S. Blacks

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Torii Hunter of the Anaheim Angels needs a history lesson about black Hispanics, who were also slaves a couple of hundred years ago in countries like the Dominican Republic.

His comment calling them "imposters" as black players was uncalled for. He has said he made a mistake with that word choice. You'd better believe it.

Hispanics have added plenty of talent and diversity to Major League Baseball. That is beyond question.

But Hunter has a legitimate point about baseball's current lack of blacks born in the United States. The sport that opened the door for Jackie Robinson to break barriers has seen a steady drop in the number of African-Americans since the 1970s. This despite current stars such as Hunter and Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies, and successful MLB programs such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and the league's partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

There are a lot of causes - most notably the rise in popularity of basketball and football as sports more conveniently available - complete with big money and scholarships - to inner-city blacks.

Hunter may be right about Major League Baseball heavily recruiting players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other Latin American countries. But they recruit where there's something for them to recruit.

What's coming from colleges and universities? Not enough.

What's coming from high schools to colleges and universities? Not enough.

What's coming from Little League to high schools? Not enough.

And where are the Little League teams in African-American communities? There are some, but again, it's not nearly enough.

Systematic failure from youth baseball to the big leagues in dealing with the competition from other sports is responsible. It hasn't helped, either, that popular baseball stars such as Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Barry Bonds turned out to be poor role models, turning off several generations of children to the sport.

A gathering of leaders from the various baseball levels and communities might start the process towards truly reviving baseball among American blacks. To lead the gathering? Maybe the First Baseball Fan?

How about it, President Obama?

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