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Reuters: Winfield bemoans vanishing black presence on diamonds

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by Lobo, Mar 21, 2007.

  1. Lobo

    Lobo Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure this is the right forum, but it doesn't seem to fit anywhere else.

    Isn't the declining number of African American players in MLB more a reflection of the changes in inner city culture than anything? If you're more likely to see inner city kids shooting hoops than practicing their curveballs and sliders, naturally there will be fewer of them going into the pros as baseball players.

    And you can't really fault the leagues for looking overseas to recruit and develop new talent when it makes perfect business sense for them to do so.

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    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hall of Famer Dave Winfield is worried about the future of Major League Baseball and the dwindling number of African Americans on the diamonds.

    "The game I love is hurting," says Winfield, who tackles the issues in "Dropping the Ball," a manifesto he wrote on how to revitalize the game published on Tuesday by Scribner.

    Winfield, a hard-hitting outfielder who now works as an executive for the San Diego Padres, cites a study of the 2005 major league season that found just 8.5 percent of players were African American -- down from a high of 28 percent in 1975.

    There has been a sharp rise among Latino players, who comprised 28.7 percent of rosters.

    "Baseball combs the world for prospects and revenues," Winfield told Reuters in an interview Tuesday. "It cannot afford to forget the fans and prospects in the U.S."

    "Part of it is being African American myself but I urge them not to give up on this game."

    Winfield outlines a multi-pronged program to rejuvenate the game, making recommendations linked to an underlying theme that owners and players join forces to market and grow the game under a plan he dubs, "Baseball United."

    He calls the changing diamond demographics a symptom of baseball's "outsourcing," since teams find it cheaper to develop foreign talent.

    "There is great hunger among Latin athletes in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Cuba to make it in baseball," said Winfield, 55.

    Winfield sees nothing wrong in cultivating talent outside U.S. shores, where amateurs can be signed at a younger age and for a fraction of the cost. He worries that U.S. athletes are missing opportunities and that the game is losing prospective talent and audience interest.

    INTEGRATION ROLE

    Baseball played a major role in the integration of African Americans into U.S. society when Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

    Greats such as Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron followed and helped inspire the likes of Reggie Jackson, Joe Morgan and Winfield.

    The grand procession may be drying up.

    The 2005 Houston Astros, for instance, were the first team since the 1953 Yankees to play in a World Series without an African American player.

    Cleveland Indians ace C.C. Sabathia recently lamented the lack of African Americans and noted he was the only one on his team. "It's not just a problem, it's a crisis," he told reporters.

    A multitude of factors are at play, said Winfield, a seven-times Gold Glove winner who had 3,110 hits in a 22-year career spent mainly with the Padres and New York Yankees.

    The lack of playing fields and organized programs in inner cities and an MLB shift to using U.S. colleges as feeding grounds are part of the mosaic, he said. Baseball does not command the scholarship money given for football and basketball, which generate huge television revenues.

    Only four percent of players in the recent College World Series were African American.

    Winfield said MLB has programs in motion to address the problem but needed a more integrated, concerted approach.

    "They're aware of it and trying to stem the tide with various programs," he said. "But there isn't the high level, all pervasive campaign that gets present day players working with the machine of baseball.

    "I'm early in the curve on this. People are talking about it. I know some things will be achieved as a result of talking about it."
     
  2. Dairy Ashford

    Dairy Ashford Member

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    Professional sports have anti-trust exemptions, publicly-funded stadiums and strong ties to their respective communities. These three factors philosophically make them more accountable to public sentiment and corporate citizenship, even on an issue like diversity in hiring. But as a black person with a non-recreational job and sub-six-figure salary in the rural Midwest, my hair stands on end (as much as it can) hearing other blacks call it a "crisis" when none of their co-workers look like them.
     

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