MLB has not done enough to build interest in its game in the inner city and urban communities.
New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson has taken a look around Major League Baseball stadiums and he has noticed a growing trend.
African-American baseball fans are disappearing at a rate that rivals the drop in Black players participating in America’s favorite pastime.
"At first, it starts off as a joke [with teammates]," Granderson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram during a recent visit to Texas. "As the game moves on, you'll get to 10, or maybe 15. Depends on where you are, too. Places like Chicago or New York, other places it's easy. [In Texas], it's hard. So after a while it becomes, 'Told you so.' "
But the thing is, people seem surprised. They have blamed the lack of interest in baseball on everything from economics to the low numbers of African-Americans at the highest level of baseball.
The reality, however, is that baseball has long since stopped investing in African-American players and communities the way it once did. MLB has traded the inner city and other urban areas in America for places like the Dominican Republic and Cuba where an abundance of Black players exits without having to compete with the NBA and NFL for their attention.
It’s telling that the number of Black players in Major League Baseball fell from an embarrassing 10 percent at the start of the 2010 season to an abysmal 8.5 percent. Those numbers lagged far behind the 80 percent of African-Americans in the NBA or the 60 percent in the NFL.
A major difference is that the NFL and NBA seem to care enough to invest in African-Americans at an early age. MLB, meanwhile, has virtually disappeared from the inner city and urban communities with fewer and fewer Little League teams, which led to African-Americans being virtually absent in baseball at the high school and collegiate levels.
The RBI (Reviving Baseball In Inner City Communities) has been a valiant effort on baseball’s part but clearly hasn’t been enough to increase the numbers at the higher levels.
Granderson seems perplexed, as should more African-Americans playing the game.
"I know it's expensive, but I've gone to places and there are fields," Granderson said. "You can easily get equipment donated. I don't know how you fight this one. I've heard a lot of kids just say, 'I don't want to.' That's not a Black/white thing, that's a kid thing. So they play on their computer, and they say, 'I want to just stay right where I am. I'm not getting into any trouble so you can't force me.
"If you poll a lot of African-American guys that are between 20 and 40 years old (and ask) what NBA player did you watch and want to be, they're all going to say '(Michael) Jordan.' He was the best player and he looked like us. (In) baseball, you have a group playing right now who could say 'Ken Griffey Jr.,' but he's no longer in the game, and there hasn't been anybody to replace him."
(Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images)