Monday kicked off the 2009 baseball season. I’ll admit that I haven’t been to a pro baseball game in YEARS! Not even when the Angels won the Pennant in 2002. I watched it on TV though!
A few years ago I spent my summer playing on my company’s softball team (Center field was my position, I was NICE LOL). That same company was big on keeping kids active. We would conduct events that included equipment drops and teaching clinics all across the country. We covered it all types of sports and would set up events for combines, basketball clinics, training runs, soccer skills academies, etc. but the one area we had little success with was baseball.
Growing up all the boys I lusted after (come on remember I don’t play a lot of sports but I watched and cheered for the ones that had the cutest boys!) played at least 2 sports. I know that’s changed as of late because most sports have made the transition to year round training schedules. However, I noticed that there were far less African-American boys than just a few years earlier interested in baseball. Me being the information seeker that I am, I wanted to know what was contributing to the trend.
My thoughts, if I can throw on some cleats and pick up a bat and glove, what’s going on with the babies in the hood that they’ve turned their backs on it? The most obvious reason is that baseball trails in popularity to football and basketball. But there’s more to it than that.
Seek and you shall find, it all comes down to $$$.
The stats; the number of African-American players not of Latin descent in the MLB is right around 8.2%. That’s down by about half compared to a little over 10 years ago. Let’s face it, baseball is not a cheap sport to pick up. Cleats, gloves, bats. All that equipment costs money. The fees to participate in traveling clubs are pretty hefty. Not really a set up for success in the hood.
The MLB does have a few programs to address the issue (Reviving baseball in inner cities) There’s even a baseball academy in the “City of Compton” (said in my NWA circa ’88 voice)
These same academies exist in countries like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic but, there’s more focus placed on those academies than the ones in the U.S. Why is that??? $$$
Scouting and drafting players from other countries allows teams to monitor a player’s development. These players aren’t inserted into the draft pool in the states and can be signed with lower signing bonuses. Often because many of these countries are entreanched in poverty, it allows high revenue teams an opportunity to take advantage. Its purely an economic process (one which also benefits those countries and its youth as well)
But you see how side stepping the draft puts inner city youth at a disadvantage. Fact, in 2005 only 35 percent of players drafted were high school players, down from 56 percent when the draft started. And only about a quarter of drafted high school players actually signed with a team.
I know what you’re thinking, COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS. We see all the hype in Football and basketball around signing day, investigations into programs and boosters, it works for the NFL and the NBA right. The reality, baseball isn’t a heavy revenue sport for colleges. Full scholarships are rare so the majority of those kids on the team have parents that are footing the bill. Another economic road block.
As stated, I’m still getting up to speed on all the complexities of baseball (I think I’m working on my Bachelor’s degree in it) But I do appreciate the fact that the league is at least attempting to develop programs that will allow these kids the opportunity to TRY!.
My condolences to the family of Angel’s Pitcher Nick Adenhart.