Will the success of Chicago’s Little League team spur interest in baseball among black kids?
Most folks probably would be surprised to learn that only eight percent of Major League Baseball players are African-Americans. It may seem that there are more, but that’s mainly because so many ballplayers are blacks from Latin countries.
In contrast, roughly three-fourths of players in the National Basketball Association and two-thirds in the National Football League are African-Americans.
There are various socio-economic factors behind the decline of American blacks in big league baseball from a high of one in five players to barely one in 12, but I won’t examine them here. Rather, I prefer to suggest that the ratio might change for the better in the coming years.
One reason for my optimism in this regard is the fact that Major League Baseball has been sponsoring — and funding – a program called the Urban Initiative, which fosters a greater interest in the game among inner-city kids. The program’s biggest success story so far has been the emergence of an all-black team from the Jackie Robinson West League on Chicago’s South Side (above) as U.S. Champions in the Little League World Series this past weekend.
The positive impression these kids from Chicago have had on black youngsters across the nation is incalculable at this early juncture, but I suspect that it’s considerable. So, too, I’m guessing, is the impact Mo’Ne Davis, a black girl from Philadelphia whose pitching skills and mediagenic charms made her the superstar of the LLWS.
Here’s hoping that the coming summers in American cities will find more and more black kids — boys and girls alike — playing baseball and entertaining dreams of following in the footsteps of the immortal Jackie Robinson.