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OPINION: Youth groups are important to combat diversity issues in MLB

OPINION: Youth groups are important to combat diversity issues in MLB

The number of African-Americans in baseball is scarce. As Major League Baseball (MLB) continues to improve its diversity issues, about eight percent of the players are Black. Youth programs have become an important way to combat these MLB diversity issues.

The lack of diversity in MLB is not surprising

For African-Americans, the interest level it takes to watch baseball is not always as high as it is for other people of color. It could be because the game is too slow. Another reason may be that there aren’t enough resources or equipment in the communities where young Black children live.  

In August, Statistica surveyed over 2,000 people about their level of interest in MLB. The survey was broken down by ethnicity. 58% of African-Americans said that they weren’t baseball fans at all —  the highest number out of all ethnic groups. Just 18% of Black Americans, the lowest number among all groups, considered themselves to be avid fans. 

Unlike the NBA and the NFL, the MLB diversity issue is unique. While there are fewer African-American spectators, 40% of the MLB’s players were Black, Latino, Pacific Islander or Asian. However, the front office problem remains the same. 

Every year, MLB takes a look at the racial breakdown among coaches, players, and team CEOs and presidents. The 2020 Race and Gender Report Card points out that 29 of the 30 CEOs and presidents are White men. The only Black CEO is former player Derek Jeter of the Miami Marlins. Of the 40 team owners listed in the report card, none was Black.

African-Americans to become baseball fans
What will it take for African-Americans to become baseball fans? (Pictured: Detroit Tigers in MLB playoff against Toronto Blue Jays) Image Credit: Getty Images

Youth groups are working to combat diversity issues 

In 1989, RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) started as a local program for boys in South Central Los Angeles. The program has grown to reach more than 150,000 male and female participants per year, ages 5 to 18. John Young, a former player, founded RBI to give disadvantaged children an opportunity to learn and enjoy baseball. He hoped it would keep them off the streets while exercising their minds. 

In 2015, the MLB and the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association) created the Youth Development Foundation as a joint initiative. Its goal was to improve and fund baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada. The Youth Development Foundation also funds field renovations and puts more educators in places where they are needed. 

Inner-city schools don’t normally supply baseball equipment to the youth in the community. But others are picking up the slack to provide what these youth need. Programs and former Black players-turned-educators are the keys to the success of future African-American baseball players, CEOs, and presidents. They help with money, equipment, and solid support. 

Many sports analysts and Black fans feel the game is too slow for young Black children. While that may be true, that is only half the truth. The opportunity to play baseball needs to be as prevalent as football and basketball in inner-city schools. Until then, the low number of Black players, Presidents, and CEOS will remain the same for years to come.

What more will it take to instill the love for baseball in kids growing up in community youth groups?

Thumbnail Credit: Associated Press (images may be subject to copyright)


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James is published in the oldest African American Newspaper in the United States, The Philadelphia Tribune. In his spare time he writes about sports and plays the piano.

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