Womack: Why fewer black youth in Sacramento play baseball — and what local legends are doing about it

From SABR member Graham Womack at the Sacramento News & Review on April 7, 2016, with mention of SABR members John Thorn, Adrian Burgos Jr., Mark Armour, and Fay Vincent:

One of the country’s most important people in the fight to get more African-Americans playing baseball can be found sitting in a dugout in Elverta.

Jerry Manuel watches seven high-school students take infield practice on a baseball diamond in this tiny, rural community 10 miles north of Sacramento. The kids have come from all over the region to take part in a free program that Major League Baseball is considering replicating around the country in order to address its glaring diversity problem.

Manuel and his son Anthony, a former minor leaguer, drill the kids: fielding ground balls, shagging flies, hitting and more.

But the 62-year-old Manuel, a former MLB player and manager, worries about the future of baseball with fewer African-American players. “If you eliminate a culture from the game that has given you Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron … then you know that the level of play is not where it should be,” he explains.

All 30 MLB teams will honor Robinson next week on April 15, the day he broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. But this time of year also brings renewed focus on some sobering stats.

Black players comprised 15 to 20 percent of MLB rosters from 1971 to 1997, peaking at 18.7 percent in 1981, according to Mark Armour of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Today, that number’s closer to 7 percent.

Read the full article here: https://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/on-why-fewer-black-youth/content?oid=20556458

Originally published: April 7, 2016. Last Updated: April 7, 2016.