Originally Posted by RedFanAlways1966
According to the 2002 U.S. Census the percentage of African American citizens in the United States was approx. 13%.
8% vs. 13%... is this really a "legitimate problem"?? Should we compare the pct. of Latino citizens in this country to the pct. of Latino ballplayers in the game? Do you think there might be a large discrepancy in those two numbers? Would we call this a legitimate problem too? Of course not.
I don't think the comparison here is to the black population % at large, but to the amount that used to be involved in baseball 25 years ago as opposed to now, which is stated as 27%. That is a significant difference. As Chip says, this is partly due to the opportunities that have cropped up in other sports, but it's still a problem both for the kids and the sport if it means that it is taking kids AWAY from baseball in such significant numbers.
When has it ever been the responsibility of MLB to get certain groups of kids to play baseball? Personally I played baseball b/c my parents encouraged me to play. I played baseball b/c I wanted to play. I also played football and basketball b/c I wanted to play these games. Neither me nor my friends had MLB players or personnel "getting us to play". Perhaps the players during my childhood were elitists as well (according to Mr. Ricciardi's description)?
With that being said... it is great to see guys like Torii Hunter do their part to help. I wish more ballplayers would help and get involved in things to help kids and give kids thing to do (and keep them away from the evils out there). But I also think people should understand that the pct. of certain races in the game might be skewed, but the African American pcts. in the game are not that far off from the pct. of African Americans in this country. Without even looking... I'd bet that there is a lower pct. of Caucasian players in MLB than than the pct. of Caucasians in this country. And Latinos?
I see ballplayers. I see the best that the game has to offer. The only colors I see are Cincinnati RED or Chicago BLUE or Cardinal RED or Pittsburgh YELLOW or....
You had a great experience as a kid, and it would be wonderful if we could all be able to only see teams' colors, etc. But you were lucky that baseball was a fun pastime to which you were exposed very young. For some inner-city kids, quite a lot of whom are black (and the kids I am referring to in this post are specifically urban, not the black population at large), it means something very different. Part of the reason many of us were able to love baseball so easily is because it was one of just many things we were given to do and to love. But for many of them, sports are the only things they have. And the sports that allow them to get their "ticket" out, if they have the talent and work their butts off, are currently basketball and football, as others have said. Baseball does not give kids the resources that these other sports do, and that's why the percentage of inner-city kids playing has fallen, because they no longer see it as a legitimate way out. The washington Heights neighborhood in New York City, where I believe Manny Ramirez grew up, is still a HUGE baseball area for blacks and Latinos and there is a ton of talent up there. But the baseball opportunities really thin out at a certain age in comparison to other sports, and the kids turn to basketball or fall through the cracks entirely. If this goes on long enough, baseball will stop being important to them because it's not the most viable option, because if they want a different life for themselves these are things they literally have to think about at age 12. They don't necessarily have the luxuries that many of us did of just enjoying the game. And this, I think, is what programs like this one are trying to give back to them in part.
Now, there are two sides to this coin in my opinion as well, because I think there's a real danger of sports becoming the ONLY way inner-city kids see as their "way out", instead of realizing that they can also be doctors or lawyers or whatever. Not only does this narrow them in terms of belief of what they can do, but it's also risky, since injuries, health and luck play such a huge part in one's success in sports. That's something I really struggle with, because on the one hand it's important to get across the "you can do anything" message, but on the other hand sports are so immediate and entertaining for kids that it's much easier and often more successful to engross them than it is, say, to convince them that it's worth it to put in 15 years of study to be a doctor and work 20 hours a day for a billionth of the salary. I guess I just think it's important to have as many opportunities available as possible, and programs like this are a great contribution I think.