As time has gone on, many have commented on the status of the “black player” in baseball and it’s been sobering to hear. There have been quite a litany of players who have spoke on the topic including Gary Sheffield, Torii Hunter and most notably C.C. Sabathia who has called the situation, “a crisis”.
African-Americans have had a prominent and honorable role in the sport since the early 1900’s — up to and after the introduction of Jackie Robinson into in the Majors in 1947 — however, it seems that the numbers are shrinking for them, and the sport is dying.
As an African-American myself, I see it not only of the field, but in the stands, in some front offices, and in management. As much as sports is the great eqaualizer in a lot of cases — it mirrors American life, literally.
However, Baltimore’s young star Adam Jones has his take on the state of African-American athletes in baseball and perhaps gives and insightful, if not realisitic of point of view. As Jones plays in a city rife & notorious for crime, truancy, violence and despair among of some the youngest in the inner city who share his complexion, it would be nothing short of extraordinary to see him take an active role and become a part of the community.
One has to give Peter Schmuck a special thanks for this interview with the center fielder.
From the Baltimore Sun: Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is well aware he’s the only American black among the 73 players in camp at Fort Lauderdale Stadium — on a team that represents a predominantly black city — and he views it as both a sign of the times and a call to action.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Jones said today, “but I’d like to see more black athletes playing baseball.”
In that, at least, he isn’t alone. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has made it an industry priority to increase the number of African-American kids involved in baseball, and Major League Baseball makes grants to supply equipment and build baseball fields in urban areas through the RBI (Renewing Baseball in the Inner city) program. Jones said now that he has become more established in the major leagues, he plans to get more involved in the RBI program and try to help change the sad fact the national pastime ranks third as the sport of choice for aspiring young black athletes.
Schmuck also gets quite a bit from first base coach, John “T-Bone” Shelby — who has been a very positive influence on Jones — and he speaks about why African-Americans no longer embrace the game of baseball and hits the nail on the head…
“One of the reasons they don’t continue to play is the expense of the sport,” Shelby said. “You’ve got to buy your own bats and gloves, and all those things are expensive. If you play basketball, all you need is a ball and a court. You go to college and everybody’s getting a full scholarship in football and basketball, but there are only 11 1/2 scholarships in baseball. Even at the lower ages, my 13-year-old got invited to play on a summer travel team and it costs $2,000. There aren’t many African-Americans who are going to be able to pay that. I don’t want to pay it. I’m not going to pay it.”
If all that isn’t incentive enough to pursue basketball and football, the NBA and the NFL provide instant opportunity for the top athletes coming out of college. The top draft choices move right into the starting lineups and can immediately become major celebrities. The top baseball prospects get paid well, but they often have to spend years working their way up through the minor leagues before they get to compete at the highest level of the sport.
Not to say that Adam Jones can change the perception of baseball in the African American community in Baltimore, or much less in America; however, to see the him even acutely aware of the problem is a plus, and perhaps he could have a little part of getting more of the community into the game.