Black players accounted for 10.2 percent ofmajor leaguers last year, the most since the 1995 season.
The sport had reached an all-time low of 8.2 percent in 2007,according to Richard Lapchick, director of the University ofCentral Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. Thepercentage of black pitchers rose to 5 percent from 3 percent andthe percentage of black infielders went up to 9 percent from 7percent.
"I feel encouraged. It's not a huge leap, but it's a stepforward," said Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson. "Ithink we have to feel encouraged, not only feel encouraged but feelinspired by progress so that we can not only sustain what we have,but work harder to see that we get that number up in futurereports."
Baseball received an A for race hiring for the first time in hisannual report, which was released Wednesday, up from an A- lastyear. Lapchick cited 10 minority managers at the start of thisseason, matching the previous high in 2002. There were fiveAfrican-Americans, four Latinos and one Asian-American.
There were five minority GMs: three African-Americans and twoLatinos.
The sport got a B for gender hiring, up from a C+. Its overallgrade went up to B+ from B.
Lapchick released the study on Jackie Robinson Day, the 62ndanniversary of when Robinson broke the major league color barrier.
"Bud Selig has led the way on these issues in MLB whichachieved this through strong records for race in the commissioner'soffice, as well as at the levels of manager, coach, general managerand the professional administrators of teams," Lapchick said."MLB continues to have an outstanding record for diversityinitiatives."
He said the percentage of minority employees in thecommissioner's office went up to 34 percent from 28 percent.
"Under commissioner Selig's direction, Major League Baseballlaunched several programs designed to increase African-Americanrepresentation among our players and minority representation amongour managers and front offices," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chiefoperating officer. "The Lapchick study shows that those programsare working."
Lapchick called baseball's progress substantial.
"They're still behind the NBA but they've gained groundconsistently over the last three or four years. They're a veryclose second to the NBA," he said. "They've really been theindustry leader in working with minority vendors. That has built upa well of good will for baseball in the African-American communitythat really didn't exist 15 years ago."
"Rich Lapchick is a friend of mine and he does a very good jobwith that report and I think it's important that it gets circulatedso people know, because so often people feel so down and sopessimistic and so cynical about social progress," she said. "Andso I don't let that get into me because I have to be spirited and Ihave to be ready to carry on and I won't be pessimistic. I justrefuse to be."