Saturday 24 June 2023

MLB Focuses Recruitment on Diversity to Bring in More Black Players

 Major League Baseball (MLB) is focusing on diversity efforts to increase the recruitment of black players.

MLB’s efforts are already yielding results. A growing number of players primed to go pro are black. MLB told AP News that approximately 15 percent of the players featured in a recent showcase preceding July’s draft were black.

In last year’s draft, four of the first five players selected were black: a first in MLB’s history. All four hailed from the DREAM Series, an MLB camp for young black players. MLB reported in April that their diversity efforts had yielded black players making up 13 percent of the top 100 selections.

MLB projected that 11 black players would be among the top 100 players for this year’s draft, with at least 49 percent of those anticipated players qualifying as diversity drafts.

The increased diversity yield may be credited to MLB’s numerous initiatives and hundreds of millions in funding dedicated specifically to training up black players.

Zion Rose, one of the combine players poised to participate in the upcoming draft, credited MLB’s diversity initiatives for his exposure to scouts, as well as significant figures like former players and coaches. Former MLB player Chris Young concurred, crediting the MLB’s diversity initiatives for lessening the financial burden for up-and-coming black players.

In 2021, MLB committed to give $100 million and raise $50 million over the course of a decade to increase the number of black baseball players. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the goal was to see more non-white players on the field.

“We want young people, period, playing the game: particularly young people of color,” said Manfred.

The millions in funding were issued in a partnership with The Players Alliance: a nonprofit of current and former MLB players launched amid the summer of Black Lives Matter (BLM) rioting in response to George Floyd’s death. The Players Alliance shares a similar logo to BLM, with one exception: while BLM has three yellow lines on a black background, the alliance has two yellow lines and one white line on a black background.

With their millions in funding, the alliance has launched a mentorship program, donated baseball equipment, and created exclusive scholarship, internship, and employment opportunities for black individuals. 

The $150 million was in addition to an initial $10 million pledge issued in 2020. 

The board chair of The Players Alliance, Curtis Granderson, said the MLB support made their equity work possible.

“As the stark racial minority in all aspects of our game, The Players Alliance has given a voice and platform to our black players, unified in our stance against systemic racism,” said Granderson. “We stand together for what is right and to change our game for the better. The power of our player membership, including our non-black teammates, coupled with the support of MLB and the Players Association, gives us the unique ability to create increased opportunities for the black communities we care so much about.”

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport estimated in their annual Racial and Gender Report Card released last week that black players made up about six percent of all players on opening day rosters. That’s one percent less than last year, and one-third of the total from 1991. However, the institute reported that the number of non-white MLB players increased to 40 percent this year. Latinos and Hispanics make up the largest bulk of the diverse crowd, accounting for 30 percent of the players.

In response to the latest demographics of black participation in baseball, MLB Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Billy Bean promised that the organization was prioritizing the recruitment of black players.

“We have extensive programs through all stages of player development to increase Black participation in baseball,” said Bean. “We are encouraged by the progress being made at various levels of the pipeline. Diversity remains a top priority for our entire industry and we are committed to this as a long-term effort.”

In addition to the DREAM Series, the MLB also has the Breakthrough Series and the Hank Aaron Invitational, diversity initiatives with predominant participation from young black players. The latter program has yielded 94 percent of graduating alumni securing collegiate and professional baseball opportunities. 

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