Miami Marlins players talk about decline of black players in baseball leagues

MIAMI (WSVN) - The Miami Marlins players talked about the decline of black players in the league.

In predominantly black neighborhoods, the basketball court is typically more occupied than the baseball field.

“That’s the problem here in South Florida. Basketball and football generally rules all the sports here,” said North Miami High School’s Baseball Manager Nathaniel Vaughns. “Their people are more interested in that. The love of the game here has to pick up because we don’t do enough on the parks for the black kids here.”

The declining number of African-Americans on the diamond at all skill levels is not just an issue in black neighborhoods.

At the Weston Athletic League, out of all of the teams participating, there was less than three black players on the opening-day rosters.

In the 1960s and ’70s, black youths would play the sport from dusk until dawn.

Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison said, “If I’m being honest, everybody in the inner city, black people are looking for quick cash, so basketball and football is definitely the easiest to get to, and it’s the most-known sport.”

“Baseball isn’t seen as a cool sport to a lot of black kids. Especially when I was growing up, you know?” said Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson. “I had maybe one or two black kids on my team playing little league with me, all the way up from t-ball to high school.”

“When I got drafted people were like, ‘Why baseball?’ But at the end of the day you just got to come out and play and hopefully they grow,” Harrison said. “That’s why I want to get into the inner city. I want to go back home and do the exact same thing that other people are doing.”

Curtis Granderson, outfielder for the Miami Marlins, said, “If you think about football, the only reason the score is high is because a touchdown is worth more, but at the same time, they score three touchdowns, which is three points, which would be three runs. Every game has it’s lulls, and it has it’s exciting moments, but highlighting those exciting moments so you’re like, ‘Man, when that happens I’m ready for it’.”

In 1986, black players accounted for 19 percent of big league baseball. In 2017, there were only 62 African Americans on baseball rosters, making it the lowest amount of black baseball players since 1958.

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said, “We still have a lot of work to do because those numbers are alarming.”

“Something that I’m very passionate about, obviously being here and Black History Month and as one of the first holidays of the season, Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, we got a lot of combination dialogue about this same topic, you know, getting more African-American kids involved in the game, knowing the game, playing the game and just enjoying the game,” said Granderson.

Granderson said the first step is making sure it’s available for the kids, showing them people they can relate to.

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