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Sunday, April 15, 2007


With today being the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson integrating baseball, it is tough for me to comprehend MLB without the best players on the planet. Currently, we are blessed to watch, with few exceptions in Japan and Cuba, the top baseball players in the world. But the game has lost a number of top African-American athletes.

The Red Sox only African-American player…

Crisp thinks the effort is there. Major League Baseball is making it a priority through inner-city programs and academies. High-profile African-American players are trying to make baseball cool again through creative marketing directed at inner-city youth.

It is not enough to lure more top African-American athletes to baseball and eventually increase the level of play of the game. A reform of the amateur draft and a significant investment in college baseball can help alleviate the decline of talent in baseball.

MLB and the Player’s Association have been delaying internationalizing the draft since 2003. It is a understandable since it is such a complex issue, but it has and will continue to contribute to the decline of African-Americans in MLB.

"Clubs do leverage their dollars much better if they develop a kid in a country not subject to the draft," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations, who is black. "Those decisions are purely business decisions, very pragmatic business decisions."

The current status of the draft and college baseball also hinders African-Americans getting to the Show.

In 2005, the most recent year for which figures were available, only 35 percent of players drafted were high school players, down from 56 percent when the draft started. And only about a quarter of drafted high school players now sign with a team, compared to about 70 percent of college players who are drafted.

It takes a certain amount of economic resources for a baseball player to go to college and whites, on average, have higher incomes than blacks in the U.S.

Fewer college scholarships are available for baseball players than the other major professional sports. In most cases, the baseball program is not a financial asset for the university and certainly not the cash cows that football and basketball are for many. It is not economically sensible to invest in your college baseball program.

So for a black athlete that needs financial assistance to attend college, it makes more sense to try for a football or basketball scholarship. This is a big reason why college baseball teams have even a lower percentage of black players than does the major league, said Solomon.

Any changes to the amateur draft will be negotiated as a part of the CBA. Since it is not a public relationship crisis like steroids, the draft will remain for players only in the U.S. and Canada until 2011. But MLB and MLBPA can assist college baseball by providing direct baseball scholarships. Better yet, any college that increases baseball scholarships would get a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship provided by MLB and MLBPA. It is a win for the school, the community, and MLB.

Hopefully, more college baseball scholarships will get more African-Americans into baseball. And as a fan, I want the best athletes from every corner of the globe to play the game or rather just for the Sox.


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