Another ‘Blackout’ In Omaha

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 2, 2010

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — Not much has changed at the College World Series.

As the South Carolina Gamecocks and the UCLA Bruins battled for the NCAA Division I title only three players of color were on the field, with three more on the bench.

In this year’s championship round, black players were centerfielders or pitchers, while Latino players played shortstop or second base. Still many college and university baseball diamonds are still lily white.

Nothing has changed in five years.

This will be the last Division I Baseball Championship at Rosenblatt Stadium because the City of Omaha and the NCAA are finishing a new downtown ballpark which should be ready for next year’s CWS.

Four years ago, the NCAA changed the format in the championship series to a best-of three because many thought teams deserved more then one game to achieve a title.

The Gamecocks won the first game of three 7-1 on great pitching of Blake Cooper who struck out 10 Bruins allowing only one hit.

UCLA woke up in the ninth inning scoring one run on three hits and leaving the bases loaded.

Tuesday’s Game Two was a pitchers duel.

With UCLA up 1-0, South Carolina tied the game in the eighth inning with a single and error by the Bruins. The game went into extra innings and eventually the Gamecocks would win the game and the Championship in the 11th inning.

The NCAA, and Major League Baseball still have to address the issues of the lack of African Americans on the College Baseball diamonds. The most prominent African American player was Jackie Bradley Jr., the starting centerfielder for South Carolina.

It is very troubling to still see HBCU’s filling the majority of their rosters with white players. Young African Americans are still walking away from America‘s favorite past time because they don’t see a future in baseball.

In the 1970’s, Major League Baseball had its highest enrollment of Black Latino and African American players at 32 %. However, baseball at that time had Black base coaches but not a single third base coach, which is a stepping stone to becoming a Major League Manager.

The late Jackie Robinson pointed this out to the American public just before he passed away. While being honored at the 1972 World Series, he pointed out on this day that not a single African American donned the manager’s cap.

Three years later, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson became the first African American manager with the Cleveland Indians with those horrible orange uniforms. In 2010, there are African American managers are in both leagues but the numbers are low.

Robinson (ironically a UCLA standout) and his fellow pioneering Hall of Famer Larry Doby (a product of Virginia Union) would still not be happy with the NCAA or Major League Baseball.

Today, there are seven minority managers (four Black, two Latino, and one Asian American) in the majors, the same number as 2009. The figure for African American Baseball players on the field dropped to just under 0.8 % in 2009.

This year, Black participation is just above 0.8%.

Improvement, yes, but there is work to be done both on the college and pro levels.

Major League Baseball has made a half hearted effort to attract young African American children back to the game with the (R.B.I.) Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program.

2010 will mark the second year of Junior RBI Classic. This is a contest between eight baseball teams and four softball teams comprised of youths aged 10-14 years old from around the world.

Is it working? Only time will tell.

From 1970-73, the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded a majority Black team with the assistance of Black Latino players for the playoffs and World Series. This will not happen again if baseball continues its denial and rejection of players of color.

African American youths no longer want to play this game because they see the shenanigans and hypocrisies of the executives, managers, and commissioners of both the NCAA and MLB.

These young Black talented players are intelligent and move on to play basketball or football.

There are also the issues of funding, equipment, and fields in the inner cities.

Many young minority players do not want to be a part of the darkest years of major league baseball. This trend will continue until Major League Baseball, inducts a new commissioner and changes its image in the African American community.

The trend will continue until college baseball reaches out to minority neighborhoods and recruit players of color to prominent positions on the field and in their executive offices.

So America said goodnight to Rosenblatt Stadium with an extra inning college baseball thriller and a new champion. Maybe this issue of minority participation will be rectified in the near future.

Then again baseball being baseball, I don’t expect anything soon.