Deion Sanders is known to most as the greatest cornerback to ever touch the gridiron. Sanders reached Hall of Fame status in the game of football, and now he’s doing his thing as the head coach of the Jackson State Tigers.
But what many forget is Sanders also played Major League Baseball, and while he didn’t reach Hall of Fame status on the diamond, he more than held his own at the plate, on the base paths and in the outfield. So when he talks baseball, folks should definitely listen.
During a recent appearance on the “How It Goes Down,” podcast, with comedian Desi Banks, Sanders talked about why baseball just doesn’t resonate like other sports in the Black community.
“I had the choice to play baseball or football,” said Sanders, who wowed on both the gridiron and diamond at the same time. He went o nto explain why he believes many Black youth don’t choose baseball as the sport to play.
“This is the problem with baseball,” Sanders continued. “Black fathers never played baseball so black fathers are not pushing their kids towards baseball. So, when the black father wants to play with his son, he puts in his hands what he’s accustomed to. Baseball is not the option.
“Back when I was coming up we had a lot of African-Americans in Major League Baseball. Now that is not a thing because they priced us out as well. Back when we played baseball in the little leagues it was so cool, maybe about a hundred or a hundred fifty dollars to register. To play on a select team now it’s at least two thousand. So kids are not playing it. They cannot afford it; they priced us out.
“It is a problem and MLB needs to have a resolution. That is the reason we don’t play along with African-American fathers not playing so they are not pushing us to the sport. And that is the best sport when we are talking benefits, salary and longevity. That is the best sport.”
Sanders is once again dropping jewels concerning the black athlete. Firsthand knowledge that he’s willing to share shouldn’t be taken lightly.
He reached some unbelievable heights as an athlete, and to this day is the only player to participate in both the Super Bowl and World Series. And, in 1992, he played in an NFL and MLB game on the same day.
Black Fathers Continually Push Sons To The Gridiron And Hardwood
African-American fathers most likely played football or basketball coming up and, as Sanders expressed, tend to guide their athletes to play those two sports. Baseball definitely isn’t a sport you see many young black athletes playing, and that’s a serious problem that does need to be addressed.
In fact, in this 75th anniversary year of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, just 7.2 percent of MLB players on opening day rosters were Black.
In total, 85 black players began the 2022 MLB on rosters, but that’s out of roughly 780 players. That’s a travesty and needs some serious reshaping.
What is The @Player_Alliance? ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/fDRPBwT4yq
— MLB Players Media (@MLBPlayersMedia) August 28, 2020
In June 2021, MLB did commit $150 million to help increase Black participation and representation in the sport. The financial commitment is slated to begin in 2023, and will be for $10 million, with the MLB Players Alliance fundraising chipping in another $5 million to match the contributions. While it’s a start, it’s still not enough.
Black Youth Baseball Numbers Have Been On The Decline
Sanders; comments have some real validity. In fact, in 2018, 11 percent of Black youth ages 6 to 12 participated in baseball. That number has dipped to 8.5 percent as of 2021. That plays right into the two things Deion mentioned: money and lack of interest because they’re not pushed to grab the bat and glove and go to the park. Instead, they’re grabbing the basketball or football and trying their hand there.
It would be nice to see that change, but unless this initiative MLB has put in place beginning in 2023 does wonders, it doesn’t look good.
Not to totally discredit efforts that Sanders might not be aware: MLB has also committed money to its various diversity programs; Hank Aaron Invitational, Breakthrough Series, Dream Series and the like.
These programs, designed to develop, identify and encourage the next generation of Black baseball players, have led to a 25 percent increase in drafted Black players over the past five years, according to the Commissioner’s Office.