Major League Baseball makes efforts to increase diversity

6/17/2013, 8:02 a.m.
One of America’s greatest pastimes and sports is the game of baseball. African American players have made significant contributions to ...
Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, center, with Central Ward Little League players from Newark, NJ, during a MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities youth initiative at the MLB Fan Cave in New York, May 12, 2011. Diane Bondareff

The Dallas Examiner

One of America’s greatest pastimes and sports is the game of baseball. African American players have made significant contributions to this game with players such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson.

Despite the popularity of this game, and significant contributions by African Americans, Major League Baseball is concerned with the lack of diversity in the game today.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig started a task force in spring to see how the organization can increase diversity in the game, especially increasing the number of Black players.

According to the MLB, only 8.5 percent of players classified themselves as African American or Black during the start of the season. This is a significant drop from the 1970’s era through the 1990’s era.

One of the programs the MLB has invested in to tackle this issue is called Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities.

RBI will be entering its 24th year of play in 2013.

From its inception in 1989 through the 2011 season, RBI has grown from a local program for boys in South Central Los Angeles to an international campaign encompassing more than 200 cities and as many as 200,000 male and female participants a year.

In 2010, Jr. RBI was launched, designed to create new playing divisions that provide baseball and softball opportunities for children ages 5 through 12 that also serve as a feeder to the current RBI 13-18 baseball and softball divisions.

The Texas Rangers Baseball Club is one of several baseball programs who have invested in the Jr. RBI and RBI programs.

The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation partnered with the city of Dallas and the Dallas Independent School District to provide baseball program for nearly 2,000 children. The participants range from ages 6 to 18, participating in practices and playing games for their schools or recreation centers.

Pam Monk, coordinator of the program and a worker with the city of Dallas Park and Recreation Department Youth Services division, says the program is designed to give children the opportunity to play baseball in areas of the city of Dallas where organized baseball had not been previously.

“The goal of the program is to teach kids sportsmanship, teamwork and emphasize students’ academic responsibilities and how important that is to playing sports,” Monk said. “We want the kids to learn to play baseball and to have something they can carry on through their life. It is leisure skills that can help one do everything from just keeping busy so that they don’t get into trouble. They also have the opportunity to earn scholarships in high school.”

Some of the priorities of the RBI program according to the MLB are to increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth, encourage academic participation and achievement, increase the number of talented athletes prepared to play in college and minor leagues, promote greater inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of the game, and teach the value of teamwork.

Monk also said that the MLB is trying to bring back the popularity of the game to the inner city.