When Black People Don’t Play Baseball

When Black People Don’t Play Baseball


I have heard people lament that young Black males overemphasize sports because they daydream they’ll become the next person to get a big payday by working their way to a professional team.

But, Blacks are definitely are not overemphasizing baseball.

At the start of the 2011 baseball season just 8.05% of players were African American, down from 19% in 1995. Last season, NY Yankees outfield Curtis Granderson made waves when he asked “Where are all the Black fans?” Unlike the halcyon days of the Negro Leagues, when Black players dominated the sport with dynamic field play that many observers found was more superior to the segregated major league, far fewer Black fans make it to the ballpark today and they watch far fewer Black players.

This is not good, and not just for baseball.

The easy answer to Granderson’s question is that professional basketball and football have eclipsed baseball in America’s consciousness. Today’s kids grow up wanting to be the next Kevin Durant or Robert Griffin III.

A second answer is that baseball, like tennis, really is not a cheap sport to master. Golf, of course, is perhaps the most expensive sport to master (outside of polo, but really, who plays polo?).

A recent New York Times profile focuses on Francis Tiafoe, a 14-year old born and raised in Maryland to émigrés from Sierra Leone who is America’s number one tennis player for his age group. But, he had some unique advantages helping him overcome the costs associated with mastering a sport.

Unlike the naysayers who babble about the overemphasis of sport in the Black community, I want these Tiafoes to succeed and spur the next generation of Black youngsters to pick up a racket. I want Kevin Durant, RGIII and even Curtis Granderson to inspire young players to follow in their footsteps.

The real reason I care is not the potential money to be earned from sport – those that financially succeed in pro sports is a tiny, tiny fraction of all those that play. The real reason is that studies show that participation in sports and other extracurricular activities is positively associated with higher grade point averages and graduation rates.

Sports, like the military, stress discipline and a work ethic. No matter what you do in life, these are good attributes which we should encourage – in any discipline. So, I say become the next RGIII, Kevin Durant, or even the next Venus Williams. No matter what, if you have worked your tail off in pursuit of a dream, that’s not the worst thing in the world.


  1. I'm careful not to work backwards from pro sports to comment on youth sports, but I understand and agree with your main point. There is very a positive correlation between participating in (organized) sports as a child and success as an adult. FWIW, baseball has become a (relatively) expensive sport to play on an organized level, whereas football and basketball are largely subsidized, if wholly not endorsed, by our K-12 system.

    I believe there's a way where we can steer greater investment into schools for the purposes of fielding a greater number of sports teams. Aside from the multiple lessons to be learned from participating in organized physical activities, i.e.; discipline, sportsmanship, etc., the potential for that activity to open children's minds to other opportunities is endless.

    • I have heard this fact before about less Blacks in baseball. I don't think people understand. There are many Blacks in baseball, probable more than ever. Black hispanics make up most of the Black population in baseball. They may not be African American or from the U.S. They are still Black or have African ancestry. Why is it that people forget or they simple do not know that Hispanic is not a race. Latin America is 20% Black and mixed Black people. Places like Dominican Republic have a majority Black population. Colombia is 26% Black. Why are we choosing to be ignorant of this. Many Black Hispanics were in the Negro Leagues.