As the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier nears, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he is committed to increasing the participation of African-Americans in the sport.
Black players accounted for 8.3 percent of rosters in 2016, according to MLB. The highest percentage was 19.0 in 1986, MLB said, citing researcher Mark Armour of the Society for American Baseball Research.
In 2016, 74.3 percent of NBA players and 69.7 percent of NFL players were African-American, according to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports in Orlando, Florida.
The 2016 MLB Draft contained the highest percentage of black players (25 percent) since 1992. The Institute gave MLB an “A’’ for its racial hiring practices.
“Major League Baseball is proud to honor Jackie’s legacy and is committed to engaging all groups of young people, especially African-American youth, in our sport,’’ Manfred said in a statement to Newsday. “We are particularly focused on growing our grass roots and development programs and, most importantly, making sure kids have fun playing our game through the Play Ball initiative. Over the past few years, there has been real growth in both participation numbers and diversity percentages in the draft. Engaging youth from all backgrounds has been one of my top priorities as commissioner.”
Combining the percentage of black players (8.3 percent) and foreign-born players (27.5 percent), the game is reaching unprecedented levels of diversity (35.8 percent), MLB said.
Sharon Robinson, 67, Jackie’s daughter, is the educational consultant for MLB. “I think we have to work to keep their interest,’’ she said of minority athletes. “We have basketball in their face, it’s readily accessible, you don’t need space, you don’t need the money it requires. So much of what major-league baseball is doing is leveling that field and offering it to urban youth and youth in general so they can afford it, have quality coaching, have a place to play and develop their talents and also keep their interest in the sport.’’