Major League Baseball Marks Jackie Robinson Day Today; Makes Progress on Attracting More Black Players

Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen won the NL MVP in 2013 (Photo: Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports)
Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen won the NL MVP in 2013 (Photo: Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports)

Maybe, at long last, there is hope.

Major League Baseball, a $9 billion industry, finally is making inroads into solving one of its greatest concerns.

Major League Baseball, which will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day throughout every ballpark Wednesday, is represented by only 7.8% of African-Americans among the 868 players on the opening-day rosters and disabled lists, according to a study by USA TODAY Sports.

Yet that percentage remains flat from a year ago, and the total number of players has gone up, with 68 African-Americans on opening-day rosters.

The numbers sound modest, but after nearly three decades of decline, they represent promise.

Actually, big-time promise.

It’s a far cry from 1986, when 19% of major leaguers were African American. Yet, within these numbers and others, there’s signs of aninflux of young African-Americans entering the game.

Examining the rosters, 65% of the African-American players are 30 years old or younger this season.

Most encouraging, 18 African-Americans have been selected in the first round of the June amateur draft since 2012. When seven African-Americans were drafted two years ago in the first round, it represented the highest percentage since 1992.

Some of them may soon become impact players: 14 African-Americans, including three of the top seven, are among the best 100 prospects as ranked by ESPN’s Keith Law.

Recent events could spark further gains. A concussion epidemic may push top athletes away from football. And a gaggle of charismatic young players – from 22-year-old Mookie Betts stealing the opening-day show at Fenway Park, to towering Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, who starts tonight’s Civil Rights Game against Robinson’s Dodgers in Los Angeles – may boost the perception it’s cool to be a baseball player again.

This is progress.

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SOURCE: Bob Nightengale


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