Recently professional baseball celebrated the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in pro baseball. During this, it was pointed out that the number of American born black baseball players was at only 8.4 percent of the pro players, compared to 27% in 1975. There have been a lot of theories tossed out as to why this has happened. As a huge baseball fan, I find this interesting.
Can’t compete with football & basketball
At the inner city level, that is. This line of reasoning makes a lot of sense, actually. Inner city black kids aren’t playing baseball, they’re playing football and basketball. This could be based on the fact that football and basketball have more cultural appeal, or it could just be because it’s easier to get a football field or a basketball court in a park than it is a baseball diamond.
It’s the money
This explanation makes even more sense. The gist of it is that the economic situation of Major League Baseball causes pro teams to look to foreign countries (often in Latin America) or even to Asia. Less recruiting is being done domestically, and more and more that recruiting is being aimed at college baseball players, which are generally less risky to develop into a talent that high school players.
It’s a conspiracy
I’m not kidding. As I was driving to work this morning I (quite by accident) tuned into some idiot morning show full of people complaining that baseball was conspiring to keep blacks out at all levels, playing, managing, and owning. Here was their best piece of evidence, quoted as well as I can remember.
“When you go to a basketball game, you can just feel the blackness. Baseball doesn’t have a halftime show, or cheerleaders, it’s not doing anything to welcome us as a people, or to feel ‘blacker’.”
Now, I have no idea what the hell exactly that means, but it sounds pretty stupid if you ask me.
Time for my commentary (which is what I do here anyway). I’m of a divided opinion on this issue, because on one hand I feel like my favorite sport (baseball) is loosing out on the chance to snag some truly great athletes, kids with tremendous raw physical potential who never get a chance to make a diving centerfield catch, or hit a 450 foot home run.
On the other hand, baseball has come to represent a microcosm of the cultural diversity of America, where white guys, Latin Americans, Asians, and blacks all play the same game and compete against one another. The decline of black baseball players has opened the door wide for the current generation. As MLB teams lost part of their talent pool to football and basketball, they were forced to search elsewhere for fresh talent. This has indirectly resulted in us acquiring players from other countries such as Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Ramirez, and many others.
While I do think that baseball should place more effort into recruiting on our home soil, I also don’t feel that this should be done at the expense of getting great players from Latin America or Asia.