Adam Jones sees obstacles to more blacks playing Major League Baseball
All-Star Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles took notice Saturday when mostly white Wrigley Field erupted in cheers for all-black Jackie Robinson West winning the United States championship at the Little League World Series. Jones said he was happy for the kids from the South Side of Chicago, but he wasn’t all that impressed with the remote cheering section.
“I see people cheering and all of that stuff here in the stadium, but they’re not going down there and supporting Jackie Robinson West,” Jones told Big League Stew. “They’re just doing it because they’re on TV. They see ‘Chicago’ on TV. I want to see more people be a part of it, rather than just say, ‘Oh, they’re from Chicago? Let’s just cheer because they’re from our hometown.’ Be a part of it.
Only black people would be upset that white people are cheering for black kids.
There’s no making these people happy.
Jackie Robinson West fell to South Korea in the international championship Sunday afternoon…
Blacks playing Asians, so I’m glad I didn’t watch one minute of it.
…but their surge at the Little League World Series, along with that of the racially mixed Taney Dragons of Philadelphia featuring Mo’ne Davis, again brought to light a question about Major League Baseball: Why aren’t more African Americans playing it? In 1981, a high of 18.7 percent were black. This season, it’s 8.3 percent. Baseball is the sport of Jackie Robinson, an irreplaceable character in the history of civil rights in the U.S. Why do blacks seem to be getting squeezed out, 67 years later?
There are plenty of blacks in MLB. It’s just that lots of them were born in the Caribbean, Central America or South America and are native Spanish speakers.
It’s not lost on Jones, who is among the 8.3 percent of African Americans, that MLB also pays lip service to black players. Overall, the league has never been healthier, with revenues topping perhaps $9 billion this season, commissioner Bud Selig has said. Development in foreign countries continues to grow, and while some of those players have black skin, it’s not the same as showing interest in players like Jones, who’s from San Diego.
“I have my own theories as to why as to why those numbers have dwindled,” Jones said. “I’m pretty sure the owners wouldn’t like my comments.”
At home, MLB has put at least $30 million into programs such as R.B.I. — Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities — that helps to build new fields and spruce up old ones, and to put on tournaments for boys and girls from 5 to 18. One of Adam Jones’s teammates, Manny Machado, played in the R.B.I. program. But getting kids to play baseball at a young age — like the Jackie Robinson players, who are 12 or 13 — isn’t necessarily the issue.
The “developments in foreign countries” are basically body shops, but at least American blacks have R.B.I. If you’re white and interested in baseball and your parents aren’t of at least decent means, you might as well not even exist.
“There’s tons of African American kids playing baseball,” Jones said. “But once they start getting to 14, 15, 16 years old, the high school age, they have to deal with the pressures of playing multiple sports. The individual coaches want them to play just one sport. They might be good in all three sports, but their coaches nowadays want them to be in one sport because they want to win — for their own job security.”
Or, alternatively, time is a limited resource which must be budgeted. Economics is the study of how individuals and groups reconcile limited resources with infinite desires. You can’t fit multiple sports into limited one-sport time, just as you can’t fit two Corvettes into a sedan’s monthly payment budget. Middle aged mid-life crisis white men have to make choices, and so do teenage black boys.
CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees noted in a New York Times article that college baseball scholarships aren’t as numerous as those for college football, leaving athletes good at both sports with an easy decision for college: They go where the scholarship is.
Maybe one reason there aren’t that many college baseball scholarships can be found in the sparse attendance at college baseball games.