Sunday was the 60th anniversary of one of the most groundbreaking moments in sports history.On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black player to play major league baseball.
While his emergence to stardom at the big-league level began to expand the game to people who had never played before, his affect on the game of baseball appears to be fading away.
That is a real shame, especially with everything he did for black athletes both during his baseball career and as a civil rights activist after retiring.
In the last few years of his life, Robinson continued to campaign for integration in baseball, and he especially yearned for a black manager. Unfortunately, Robinson lost his battle with diabetes in 1972 and wouldn’t be able to see Frank Robinson, no relation to Jackie, become the first black manager in 1974.
In 1975, three years after Robinson’s death, 27.5 percent of major league baseball players were black. But, as of opening day this season, only 8.4 percent of the rosters were black, according to ESPN.
It is not just at the major league level where the lack of black baseball players is apparent.
I have played baseball since I could walk. I played Little League from the age of 5 all the way through high school, and I can only recall a couple of teams I played on that had black teammates.
I have also coached a YMCA baseball team the last two summers and haven’t had a single black player on my roster either season.
The MLB has created a $10 million Urban Youth Baseball Academy in Compton, but there is so much more they can do to add to the program. Mainly, expand the program to other cities.
Black athletes, no matter how old, need to know that there are other professional sports options besides football and basketball.
Sure, sports like basketball, football and even soccer have the aspect of immediate gratification working for them without a minor league system, but there are still great opportunities for success in America’s pastime.
Young athletes can join the NFL as early as two years out of high school, and athletes can join the NBA as early as one year after graduating high school.
Players who get drafted by the MLB usually spend at least three years playing in the minor leagues before even getting their cup of coffee at the show.
Another way MLB can help recruit young black athletes is through better marketing. Basketball stars are shown hanging out with the most popular musical artists and are all over the television doing commercials for shoes and other apparel, while baseball players will occasionally do a commercial for United Way and maybe for Dick’s Sporting Goods – nothing jaw-dropping.
MLB needs to change its marketing approach and try to attract more young, black ball players.
One possible source for popular advertising could come from the rapper Nelly, who was once scouted by both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves.
So now, 60 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, people should remember his greatness, everything he did for black athletes and how baseball should be searching for the next great black star.
Photo editor Billy Wessels is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Waxahachie.