Black Kids and Baseball

By Jo Ann Lawery
Updated: April 18, 2005

LOS ANGLES, CA—April 15th isn’t only income tax day, it’s also the day the Jackie Robinson broke into baseball so many years ago.

Now, every year on April 15th, ballparks all over major league baseball wll have “Jackie Robinson Day.”

On that same day this year, the Washington Nationals, formally the Montreal Expos, opened their home season in DC.

It made headlines in newspapers and was even mentioned on t.v.

But the ABC news with Peter Jennings mentioned another fact.

The lack of African American fans and players in the major leagues.

What happened between those years that Robinson integrated baseball and now?

Why aren’t more African American kids playing and liking baseball?

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because there aren’t any African American players they can relate to-we aren’t talking ice hockey here.

What are Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Milton Bradley, and Garrett Anderson?

They are all African American baseball players the last time I watched any of them play.

Baseball really isn’t an expensive sport to play, all you need is a ball, a bat, and a yard to play in.

Stop using the excuse, “I don’t watch because there are no African American starts in baseball.”

HELLO! Does the name Ken Griffey Jr ring a bell with anybody?

Call me naive, but I didn’t hear that many African Americans moaning and groaning over the fact that baseball is being tarnished by steroids in sports.

We have more important things to worry about than what Barry Bonds did or didn’t put into his body.

Speaking of Bonds, he’s not really one of my favorite players, but I find it kinda funny that his ex grilfriend, mistress or what ever she’s passing as this week, has nothing better to do than tell us everything about her and Bond’s relationship that we really don’t need or care to know about.

Some things just don’t need to be told.

What is the real reason we don’t see African American children into baseball?

Could it be that baseball games are really long?

Or that they’re boring to watch, not only on television, but in person?

Could it be that most of the names kids hear either are Ramirez, Diaz, or Ichiro?

Or could it be that their parents weren’t as much into baseball as their grandparents might have been.

If you grew up in New York in the 1950’s and 60’s as I did, there were three teams to watch, not just the Yankees but the Giants and Dodgers, who hadn’t moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles yet.

The African Americans of my generation are still baseball fans, because we had someone who introduced us to the game.

I honestly though, don’t have a true answer.

I do have an idea on how to get more African American kids involved.

Like the Latino players, who really do return to their communites in the off season and are real heroes to children in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and especially the Dominican Republic, why can’t African American players pass on their knowledge to kids in the inner cities?

Before there was Robinson, there were no African American baseball players in major league baseball.

We’ve come a long way from those times or at least we like to think so.

There isn’t any real reason why African American kids can’t realate to a baseball player the way Dominican kids look up to Sammy Sosa or Pedro Martinez.

There’s nothing wrong with picking up a basketball and pretending to be the next Lebron or AI.

But while you’re at it, how bout picking up a ball and bat and pretending to be the next Torii Hunter, Dave Roberts, or Kenny Lofton?