Is Derrick Rose loosely to blame for the lack of black ballplayers in baseball?

The percentage of black players in the four major sports:

•             NBA –78%

•             NFL- 70%

•             NHL- 4 %( To be fair most of them are Canadian)

•             MLB – 8%

According to a recent study done by USA Today, in 1975, 27% of MLB rosters had African-American players on them. In 1995, the percentage was 19%.

What do you think Jackie Robinson would say about those numbers? He would probably be disappointed but then again he was also a multiple sports star who might have chosen another route like so many kids do today.

In the 1992 All-Star there were 13 African-Americans players in that game: Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., Lee Smith, Gary Sheffield, Tony Gwynn, and Chicago native Kirby Puckett were the notables.

This month’s All-Star game had nine: Derek Jeter, Matt Kemp,CC Sabathia, Andrew McCutchen, and Chicago-area native Curtis Granderson were players of note.

As a kid growing up in late 80’s and early 90’s, I loved watching baseball. Back then, I was what one could call a “Chicago fan.” I loved both the Cubs and the White Sox. I liked the amount of black players on both teams. Andre Dawson, Frank Thomas,Shawon Dunston,Harold Baines,etc.  In general, the likes of Barry Bonds, Eric Davis, Ken Griffey, Jr., Dave Winfield, and Tony Gwynn and gone from the scene.

I am an avid Chicago White Sox fan even though the number of black players has dwindled over the years. I attended Monday’s night game. It’s very easy to notice that out of the two teams playing, the Sox and Minnesota Twins both have four blacks players combined. The White Sox have one backup utility infielder Orlando Hudson. To the team’s credit that do have quite a few African-American ballplayers in the minor leagues. Recently, first round pick Courtney Hawkins.

The Chicago Cubs, whose team history is filled with Hall of Fame African-American players, has not a one.

What happened to the black players in Major League Baseball??

Like people who follow baseball in my demographic, I have noticed the dearth of black ballplayers. I came up with some reasons why this is happening:

  • Lack of resources/scarce little league programs in the inner city
  • Other sports have quicker ways to turn pro
  • The lack of full scholarships for baseball
  • The majority scouting is focused toward Latin American and Asia
  • They just don’t want to

Most of us would be hard pressed to name a little league program in the inner-city of Chicago.

I know a couple such as B.I.G. Baseball Academy and Jackie Robinson West, commonly known as “JRW.”

The trend of Asian baseball players has also curtailed the amount of black ballplayers in the major leagues. Players like Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, and former Cubs/White Sox player Kosuke Fukudome were brought over due to MLB’s heightened interest in Asian baseball players.  I understand that Major League Baseball is a results-based business like anywhere else. So I can see what they might look elsewhere to find talent.

Chicago Now blogger John Arguello, who writes a blog called Cubs Den, believes that Major League Baseball needs to get back into the habit of scouting inner-city baseball players.

“MLB needs to invest more in cities. It’s a shame to see talent consistently choose other sports. They’ve started their RBI project, but it hasn’t been enough,” Arguello said. “Perhaps with the new CBA and scaling back internationally, MLB should divert more resources here at home to get kids better coaching, facilities, etc.”

Keith Brookshire, who is a coach with the Chicago White Sox, 13 and under team called the Sandlot White Sox, believes that baseball does not appeal to inner-city kids these days because other sports leagues have a shorter time in terms of getting play professionally which leads to a small amount of little leagues programs.  “It’s the right now success effect of this generation, via the mass media, rap music, and the drug game that doesn’t allow for today’s inner city youths to appreciate the patience it takes to play baseball; and matriculate through the minor league system,” Brookshire said. “In Chicago, the in house leagues are dying out; Jackie Robinson West is still hanging on, but Roseland, Touhy, Washington Pk., are all but dead, and it’s pretty much the same around all the city’s I’m sure.”

At the point, I’m going to talk about the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Derrick Rose.

I know that saying something about Derrick Rose in Chicago can get me on the bad side of a lot of Chicagoans. Hear me out.  We all know that Rose was a number one pick and an instant millionaire less than two years after leaving Simeon High School. Let’s track the progress of the average baseball player in the same time period.  Player gets drafted. Next he gets signed and sent to the rookie league. Next, depending on the player progresses, said player matriculates through A, AA, AAA.  At this point, you can see that this player is not a millionaire so far.

Mark Trumbo is a volunteer coach with Jackie Robinson West and an assistant varsity baseball coach at Harlan High School on the city’s Southside. He thinks that the “Derrick Rose effect” has led to the generation of kids who won’t give baseball a second look.  “I find that there is a lack of interest by young ball players,” Trumbo said. “Everything is done now. Baseball is a patient sport. The young guys that get drafted in other sports say I had to come out of college to help my family out. Kids are smart enough to see that.”


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