April 24, 2007

8.4% is a Sign; It is Not a Statement


I am curious if anyone has surveyed Black professional-ballplayers and asked them what it was like coming through the system into the Major Leagues.

The Associated Press referred to a study that the amount of Black players in the big leagues has dwindled in recent years -- only 8.4 percent of major leaguers last season. Yahoo! Sports carried this in its April 23 report, “Phillies, Astros pay tribute to Jackie Robinson”.

Others tell us that this is down from a height of 30% thirty-years ago. That is a long time ago and a big drop. Well, the last time we were this low was soon after the 1947 Integration which was a result of our sin of Exclusion. The 8.4% could suggest that we are heading towards a future-Exclusion as we subconsciously push them out.

We might ask what does 8.4% mean. It may not be such a mean number.

There are far fewer Black MLB players now then there were before. A drop to 8.4% from 30% is stunning – and more so in thinking of the more than 750 players. It could be that something has changed in our society’s conditions to contextualize this drop. I would like to believe that identification of the cause will enable our self-correction of our actions to the goal.

So let us think about where the Black prospect come from. Let us consider his first official interaction with a representative of Major League Baseball who could be a scout, coach, or front office staff. Let us consider whether this interaction is positive as showing the respect that this could be a long-term partnership.

When prospects are released we might consider if they are given information and resources for making it in the working world as non-Athletes. We can point them towards GED equivalency courses, vo-tech schools, four-year college programs, masters programs. We can give them instructions in signing a lease to rent an apartment, purchasing health-care, writing a resume, dressing for work.

8.4% is a sign and not a statement. We are not clear right now what it is a sign of. If we keep going forward like this, than 8.4% will be a statement about our marginalization of the American Black community. In this way, to do nothing is to choose to confirm the fear and in so doing, really make us racist.

We can do something about 8.4% to redefine the value as the first letter of the answer to the question its asking.

Let us begin to ask our Black professional-ballplayers what happened to him when he came up through our system. His stories will be numbers on which to grow the game for all of our good.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kyle Washington said...

I spoke in my last entry regarding the number of blacks drafted versus the number that actually get called to the "show". I spoke of the money invested in Latin countries in develop the youth. Lastly, I made reference to former Major Leaguer, Billy Williams, saying the problem has been reviewed, written, and discussed but nothing ever comes of it.

The days of kids playing a pick-up game of baseball have long past. Society has changed and we must continue to evolve as well. In regards to black players that have invested their youth in America's favorite pastime, there is little to no support when the game is over. Many players leave the game with no pension, no degree, and no job training. Many end up working manual labor (outside of the game), sales jobs (outside of the game), and finally most end up coaching amateur sports with very little or no pay at all. These players are left with bitterness & resentment for the game. Especially, the black players! We have identified the problem over and over, we know that up high the numbers are slim. Look deeper and you will see that the number of low position are just as slim. Scouts, coaches, trainers, front office people, ballpark personnel all are few in numbers. There are many solutions that exists, but who is going to be willing to take the first step?
Instead of having a kid spend 10 years of his life trying to achieve a dream that doesn't manifest, let him pass it on to the next kid. The answer to me is simple, duplicate what has been done in the Latin American countries! Build baseball complexes here in the States. Employ former current and former players to help teach, train, develop, and motivate the youth inner city & suburban. Unlike the current program in place called RBI which is Major League funded. These centers will allow these guys an opportunity to feel like all of their accomplishments on the field have not be done in vain. They can be more of an asset to the game itself by simply having something good to say about it. I believe it would have a direct impact on the number of blacks in the previous mentioned positions throughout the game. Latin Americans are the evidence that exemplifies this to be true. Since Major League baseball started to invest in these countries, the number of positions on and of the field for Latin players, coaches, and other positions have increased greatly.

So to all of you people who enjoy the game, and believe that I am crazy because you watch it on T.V. and I see plenty of black guys on the field and in the dugouts, look a little closer that guy who looks like he is Black is actually from Dominican Republic.

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