Black College World Series Hopes to Launch MLB Careers for HBCU Players
The MLB is working to bring more Black athletes to the field.
Baseball teams from historically Black colleges and universities gathered this month at Montgomery, Alabama’s Riverwalk Stadium for the Black College World Series.
According to the Associated Press, the tournament committed to giving dozens of HBCU athletes from NAIA and Division II schools an opportunity to compete for a title beyond their college leagues and gain exposure to Major League Baseball teams.
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“We all have concerns about the fact that we don’t have as many African American players playing today,” Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith said, predicting the decline may be due to kids observing quicker success through the NBA and NFL.
This year’s MLB opening day roster featured no players from HBCUs and only 59 of the 945 players this season were Black U.S.-born players. No U.S.-born Black players took part in the World Series last year.
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association reported only 8.4% of Black children between the ages of six and 12 years old played baseball regularly.
“Representation is down, therefore not too many African Americans are following the sport,” LaMonte Wade, the only Black player on the San Francisco Giants, said. “Once you get into high school you kind of have to pick what sport you want to play. Most African Americans choose basketball or football. That’s mostly where our friends are playing, but if we can start them at a young age I think we can get the numbers up.”
It’s significant when young kids see players on the field that look like them, according to Jean Batrus, the executive director of the MLB and the MLB Players Association’s Youth Development Foundation. “… You’re more willing to play a game if you see a Black, African American coach, you see other kids playing.”
Thousands came out to watch the Black College World Series games, most being Black kids ranging from elementary school to high school.