Major League Baseball is experiencing the lowest percentage of Black baseball players in three decades, according to a new report. And football great Deion Sanders says he knows why.
A report released this week by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida found that while Black players made up about 18 percent of all MLB rosters when TIDES first began assessing the league’s demographic data in 1991, Black players represented only 7.2 percent of all MLB players at the start of the current season, Newsweek reported. The report is titled “The 2022 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball.
Sanders told the Jasmine Brand there is no pipeline for talent from the Black community to MLB because Black families are priced out.
“Black fathers are not pushing their kids for baseball because they don’t know baseball…Baseball is not the option,” says Sanders, who is the head football coach at Historically Black University Jackson State University.
He added, “When I was coming up, we had a lot of African Americans in major league baseball. Now it’s not the same; they have priced us out as well.” Little League baseball for youth has become to expensive, he noted. According to Sanders, it used to “be like $150,” not he claims it is it “like $2,000-$2,500, so kids can’t afford it.”
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Sanders said this has ramifications since Black youth aren’t learning the sport, then there are fewer Black professionals and they are missing out of a major opportunity.
Baseball, said Sanders is “the best sport when you talk about benefits, salary, longevity. It’s the best sport.”
Little League baseball enrollment and registration fees differ, but the range $250-$300, according to Baseball Boom. Added to this cost would be equipment, such as mitts, shoes, uniforms, helmets, and bats. Some leagues also require fundraising donations.
A typical registration fee for each participant in Pop Warner Little Scholars football usually ranges from about $75 to $200, according to Pop Warner, a national youth football league.
Tolleson High School baseball coach Scott Richardson agrees with Sanders thatbaseball is becoming too expensive for kids, especially Black kids.
“I think one of the factors is the lack of opportunities, unless you have money at a young age, to play youth baseball,” Richardson told Cronkite News. “It used to be where everybody in your town played on the local Little League teams, and it was very affordable. But then, when the club and travel ‘elite’ teams started forming, they started (pushing away) people of diverse cultures.
“It’s not uncommon for a kid that wants to play club baseball (to pay) $800 a season (with) monthly dues. Many kids in poor populations have a tough time (paying for that). With basketball, all you need is a basketball, and you go down to the park by yourself. With baseball, you can’t do that” anymore.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, despite its efforts at fostering diversity at the youth level, baseball continues to lose Black athletes.
In April 1947, Black baseball player Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first Black player to appear in an MLB game. Black began to join the sport and in 1981 season, MLB saw its highest-ever Black representation at 18.7 percent, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.
The decline in players also means a drop in Blacks in MLB front offices.
“There are two Black managers in baseball out of 30 teams,” Chelsea Janes, a national baseball reporter, told WBUR. “And I think there’s a lot of people that look at that as a serious problem too.”
Photo: Jackson State head football coach Deion Sanders smiles as he holds the Orange Blossom Classic trophy after winning an NCAA college football game over Florida A&M, Sept. 5, 2021, in Miami Gardens. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)