Many people consider baseball to be America’s great past-time, but evidence shows that inner-city youth may have moved on to other activities.
The number of African-American players in Major League Baseball is dwindling, according to an annual study conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which serves as a comprehensive resource regarding issues of race and gender in athletics.
In 2011 only 8.5 percent of major league rosters consisted of African-American players. This figure is striking considering it is the lowest level since 2007 when black players made up merely 8.2 percent of opening day rosters. When the study began in 1990, the figure was 17 percent.
The debate continues on why African-Americans seem to be abandoning the game. Meanwhile, James Carter, founder of the Greater Brewerytown Community Development Corporation, established the Brewerytown Youth Baseball Program in 2007 to provide inner-city youth from the neighborhood the opportunity to play the game he enjoyed as a kid.
“We’re hoping that it shows them a responsibility, a commitment to teammates, leadership, their willingness to work together. It inspires a lot of characteristics that they’re going to need in the future,” Carter said.
The Brewerytown Youth Baseball Program consists of three different teams. There is a tee-ball team for children between the ages of five and seven. There is also a team for those between the ages of 8 and 12. The last team is made up of children between the ages of 13 and 15.
Carter said the league usually runs between the months of April and July, and the program is currently in the process of recruiting children to join the program.
The program is funded primarily by donations from various groups. Last year, as part of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, the Philadelphia Phillies provided the Brewerytown Youth Baseball Program with $2,500. Carter said this donation allowed the program to purchase a lot of equipment for the upcoming season.
The program began in 1989 as a means of increasing participation and interest among inner-city youth.
“We provide our local RBI programs with whatever we can do to help them get their program started because it is an expensive task if you want to start a league or program in their area. We’re here to alleviate the costs for them,” Jon Joaquin, manager of fan development programs for the Philadelphia Phillies, said.
Joaquin attributed the lack of interest in baseball in inner cities to the lower costs of more popular sports like basketball.
“You never know the full reason why baseball died after all these years but you take a look at the costs and it is expensive to buy a bat and a ball whereas with basketball all you have to do is pick up a ball and shoot some hoops. That’s what we’re here to do is to help provide them with all the stuff they need to get a league going in their area,” Joaquin said.
Carter, on the other hand, said that kids have lost interest in the sport because it’s not as active as sports like football or basketball.
“In this sport kids either watch another kid bat or stand in the outfield where they might not get a play the whole game,” Carter said.
Whatever the cause is behind the waning presence of African-American players in baseball, these programs aim to combat that trend and provide children with the opportunity to at least try the game.
“It’s great to know we’re affecting all these kids and giving them a positive opportunity to play the sport on the field and hopefully they get something off the field as well like life skills and great mentoring by their coaches and their volunteers,” Joaquin said.