New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, the burly left-hander, is part of a fading breed of African-American players in baseball, especially on the mound. According to an article written by the Washington Times columnist Deron Snyder, the numbers are falling and falling fast.
Baseball used to have a captive audience with Black athletes, but that is no longer the case. It’s hard to say who is more to blame for the poor numbers in Major League Baseball: Black athletes, who have turned their attention to basketball and football, or baseball, which has seemed more focused on developing Hispanic talent during the last couple of decades.
This year African-Americans accounted for just 8.5 percent of the MLB players on opening day, compared to 27 percent in 1975. The numbers will only get worse if Black talent isn’t harnessed and developed and young boys aren’t taught to love the sport at a young age.
“Exposure is the key,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said in the Washington Times piece. “You see a lot of guys in baseball whose fathers were ballplayers. They were introduced to the sport at a very, very young age."
“Once you fall in love with baseball, most times you remain in love with baseball. The hard part is falling in love with baseball at an older age. Then it appears slow.”
But the problem baseball faces now is that there are so few Black faces it’s hard for young ball players to find players who look like them that they want to model themselves after. There are currently just five Black starters in Major League Baseball: Cincinnati’s Dontrelle Willis, Pittsburgh’s James McDonald, St. Louis’ Edwin Jackson, Tampa Bay’s David Price and Sabathia.
“The reason I picked up a baseball is because of Dave Stewart,” said Willis, the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year, who was an 11-year-old in Oakland when Stewart began a string of four 20-win seasons for the Athletics. “Being an African-American pitcher and seeing him do what he was doing with the talent he had, I said, that’s who I want to emulate my game after.”
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