The number of African-American players on Major League Baseball opening day rosters this season was historically low. Only 7.7% of the players on all 30 MLB rosters are African-American, which is the lowest percentage since the Boston Red Sox became the final team to integrate their roster in 1959. Bud Selig is hoping to change that in the near future.
According to USA Today Sports, Selig is expected to announce the creation of a formal task force this week that will aim to reverse the decline in African-American ballplayers across the league. The project will reportedly consist of a 17-member committee that includes owners, executives and coaches. It is expected to include Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and Chicago White Sox vice president Kenny Williams, among others.
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan said he believes the low number of African-American stars in the MLB today has resulted in a lack of role models for young African-American players.
“I never thought I’d see anything like this,” Morgan told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “But I’ve seen it coming. There, for a long time, there were a lot of African-American players to look up to and emulate, but there’s not enough big stars now to dissuade them from basketball and football.”
Four MLB teams — the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers — opened their season this year without a single African-American player on their roster. 18 teams have two or fewer African-American players currently on their rosters.
However, there have been some small signs that the trend could be reversing. Last year, seven African-American players were selected in the first round of the MLB draft, which is the most since 1992. Reds outfielder Derrick Robinson, who was offered a scholarship to play football at Florida in 2006 but chose baseball instead, said the risks involved with playing football could help increase the number of African-American players in baseball.
“You look at those kind of things, and that’s why I talk to guys trying to get them to play baseball,” Robinson said. “Some of them say it’s boring, but hey, I love it. It’s so much better on the body and for longevity. Besides, you look at this game now, and it’s changing. The game’s being revolutionized now with speed and defense. We need all of the great athletes we can get.”
When you hear stories like this, you realize how big of an issue concussions and head shots have become in the NFL. From a physical standpoint, it seems to make sense that an MLB career could be longer than an NFL career. Whether or not that increases the number of African-American players on MLB rosters remains to be seen.
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