In Monday’s USA Today, the lead story in sports was about the drop in number of African-Americans playing major league baseball.
The story showed that only 8.5 per cent of the players in major league baseball today are African-American. This number is down from 27 per cent in 1985 and 19 per cent in 1995.
This is not what Jackie Robinson envisioned when he broke baseball’s color barrier 65 years ago in 1947.
Things are no different in our state. If you go to high school games or Little Leagues in our state, you will see that African-Americans in our state are also no longer playing baseball. There may be several reasons for that.
Kids today seem to enjoy the more high energy sports of basketball, football and soccer. By comparison, some kids consider baseball boring. Also, kids are no longer playing sandlot baseball, but they are doing travel soccer and AAU basketball all year long.
There are also more scholarship opportunities in football and basketball than baseball.
On the college level, many African-American athletes have the option of choosing college football or minor league baseball. Most of them, such as former WVU quarterback Pat White, will choose football. It is much more exciting to play on a college football Saturday on national television in front of 60,000 fans than it is to ride the bus, playing in front of small crowds in small town America in the minor leagues.
I also have this theory. Baseball has become somewhat of a white, country club sport, just as tennis used to be. Kids today take private hitting lessons all year. They also take private pitching lessons. Those lessons are not cheap. They cost money. Money that many minority youngsters don’t have. They also play travel ball all year long and that is also expensive.
Without the lessons and the playing time, African American youngsters find it hard to compete. As a resutl, they stop trying at the age of 10 or 12 or so when they should just be getting started.
There was a time when baseball was the national past-time that every youngster, black or white, dreamed of playing in the major leagues. Now for African-American athletes that dream has shifted to one and done in college basketball and on to the NBA. Baseball is no longer seen as a viable option.