On Tuesday, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced the creation of a 17-member task force to study the decline of African Americans in the game, according to the New York Times. The first meeting was held on Wednesday in Milwaukee and was chaired by Detroit Tigers President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski.
“I don‘t want to miss any opportunity here,“ Selig said in a telephone interview from his office in Milwaukee. “We want to find out if we‘re not doing well, why not, and what we need to do better. We‘ll meet as many times as we need to to come to meaningful decisions.“
Only 8.5 percent of the players on the 25-man rosters on opening day were African-American. Several teams, including the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, had none. The highest percentage of African-Americans playing in the majors, according to new research by Mark Armour from the Society of American Baseball Research, was 19 percent in 1986.
Though the study is a noble effort, a lot of the legwork to make the game more appealing to young African Americans will be determined by what happens on the field, not just in closed-door meetings. Two seasons ago, African-American player Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the most exciting players to watch as he pursued baseball’s historic Triple Crown (awarded to the player who ends the season leading the league in home runs, batting average and runs batted in).
Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson is the most visible member of the team of investors who purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. And Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is a two-time All-Star who is also on the cover of this year’s version of baseball’s best video game, “MLB 13: The Show.” News of this study also comes just days before the release of a high-profile baseball movie, 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic.
MLB should be applauded for its efforts to increase the number of African-American players, but in doing so, it should also emphasize some of the work that’s being done by the players and owners who are involved in the game today.
Read more at the New York Times.