MLB can do more to produce African-American players

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Major league baseball is one of the most renowned professional sports in America and is an integral part of modern U.S. history.

The sport has been given the nickname “America’s Pastime” due to the prominence that it possesses.

The MLB has gained popularity not only throughout the U.S. but globally as well, since there are many players from different countries playing for professional ball clubs today.

Whether someone is watching the sport for the very first time, a huge fan of their respective hometown team or a young aspiring big leaguer, there is nothing like watching the ball get driven into the upper deck seats or hearing the crowd’s reaction to a shortstop’s jump throw across the diamond.

All of these reasons are exactly why it is so disheartening to say that the game of baseball does, in fact, have imperfections.

The MLB has been fortunate enough to produce a number of talented players from countries outside of the U.S. However, the number of African Americans in the sport has continued to plummet.

The percentage of African Americans in pro baseball was at an all time low of 7.1 percent at the start of the 2017 season, according to USA Today’s study.

The annual study shows that although the numbers have increased  from the 7.1 percent  to 7.8 percent at the start of the 2018 season, the percentage of African Americans in the game is still substantially lower from what it used to be.

Starting with Jackie Robinson, who integrated professional baseball in 1947 and paved the way for many African Americans to play the sport, there have been several ball players who have been foundational pieces in the league such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Tony Gwynn to name a few.

Mookie Betts, the three-time Gold Glove award winning right fielder for the Boston Red Sox, is a reason why it is imperative that the MLB continues to make a strong push towards increasing these numbers.

Betts, who is one of the select few of African Americans on the Red Sox 25-man roster, just recently won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award for his exceptional 2018 season.

Programs operated by the MLB such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities show that the league is proactively looking to increase the percentage of African Americans in the sport as its purpose is to ultimately encourage participation.

But the instruction isn’t always there and more of the focus is put on academic achievement as student athletes and learning the value of teamwork.

While all of that is great for African American boys and girls growing up in inner cities, travel baseball has become the only arena to receive proper instruction, and many families struggle to afford that teaching for their aspiring ball players.

As a result, the young men pick up footballs and basketballs rather than gloves and bats.

Youth athletes don’t see many ball players in the MLB who are African American like them, the same way they do in football or basketball but it is undeniable that the talent will always be there.

The league has already lost Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes to football, just imagine if some of these prodigy athletes stayed the course.

All 30 teams in the league have founded academies with new training facilities, weight rooms, playing fields and clubhouses for ballplayers in countries like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

That would make sense given that the game is dominated by perennial all stars from the Caribbean.

In addition to the million dollar academies that the league invests into Caribbean countries, the instruction that the players receive in the academies is practically MLB caliber.

If the MLB invested in similar academies with the same teaching in inner cities, there would be more Mookie Betts, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Judges and Tim Andersons.

If the proper instruction that is provided for travel ball teams was accessible and not a financial burden for inner city families, the numbers would improve without question and the game would be much more exciting in the future.

MLB owes it to the fans so let guys like Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge be the example.

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