Day 21 of 30 Days On Dads – African American Fathers & Baseball: The Future Depends On You

I was listening to a tremendous interview with Sociologists Dr. Harry Edwards (the podcast can be heard here) where he broke down some reasons for the decline in African-American baseball players. Later, I had a conversation with a friend and we discussed the lack of fundamentals seen in little league today. 

So take a look at the following chart created by sabr.org:

BlackBaseballDemographics1

Does anything surprise you?

What surprises me is the fact that according to the statistics, in 2012, African-Americans made up 7.2% of the MLB players. But in 1958, 11 years after Jackie Robinson broke the modern color-line in major league baseball (there were previously African-American’s in baseball, see here) there were 7.4%!

That’s right fans, major league baseball has the same percentage of African-American players as it had during the heart of American civil rights struggle as schools were still choosing to close their doors over desegregating.

This certainly deserves more of an in-depth study than what I’m going to do today, but I want to begin having the conversation and I want to first start with dads. Dr. Edwards has pointed out that unless we reach our boys (of any people group), with the sport of baseball by the time they are around ten years old, the likelihood of them picking up the sport is very minimal. Of course this gets compounded in the African-American community as they struggle with:

– lack of fathers in the household

– lack of funding for sports programs, especially baseball

– lack of secure playing field/area due to high crime rate in the neighborhood

– lack of finances to pay league fees and/or for equipment

– lack of interest due to popularity of football and basketball

– lack of fields that are in suitable playing condition (i.e. free of glass, high weeds)

– lack of investment by Major League Baseball (RBI Program excluded) in urban communities and lack of  marketing towards African-Americans.

Those are just a few issues off the top of my head and again, each deserves a study just to see if data backs up the observation.

But one thing for sure, as shown on this “good” commercial, dad’s can play a big part in reviving the game.

IMG_1314-w1000-h1000_new_WatermarkBroke-athletes

 

 

 

 

 

I remember kids who were tremendous athletes and loved basketball and football, but they could not catch a baseball nor did they know how to even hold a baseball bat. No dad was around to show them.

But this is where you come in and if you don’t have any children, teach another child.

Big Homie Working the Tee

So this week’s CSD Homework: Spend just 15 minutes teaching your son or daughter (or the son or daughter of someone else), how to throw a baseball, catch a baseball and hold a bat. That’s it. Even if you aren’t the greatest, or never liked baseball yourself, you likely know at least how to do those things because hopefully someone taught you or you learned it back-in-the-day before video games taught fundamentals.

Let me know how it goes in the comment section below!

CSD

 

What Do Reggie Jackson and My Father Have In Common?

Today, Mr. October Reggie Jackson turned 65 years old. My dad recently turned nearly the same age at almost the same time. Reggie Jackson is a lover of muscle cars, my dad is as well. Reggie Jackson’s public persona seems extremely complex. Well, my dad’s public and private personas are complex as well. Reggie seemed to be one who did not believe in turning the other cheek. My dad’s advice to me was always throw the first punch because you don’t know if he’ll lay you out with his first blow. Reggie was born in Pennsylvania, my dad’s relatives are in Pennsylvania (okay, that one’s a stretch but I still counted it as a kid!).

But there is one glaring difference between the two men. Reggie made his fame and fortune from baseball and my dad hated sports. He made his fame at home and his fortune in the plant. Both men got dirty and worked with their hands, but in two very different ways.

Yet, had it not been for my father, I never would have looked up to “the straw that stirs the drink” (and Reggie did not mean that the way the reporter told it by the way).

Despite the fact that my dad never liked sports, he never discouraged my passion for baseball. As a matter of fact, two things he taught me early on that I’ve carried for over 30 years:

1.) Do not cheer for the home team, because they are losers.

2.) Look at Reggie, and how he handles himself, and that’s how you must handle yourself in this world.

 Dad knew the impact the ‘hood could have had on me. While we weren’t exactly living in the projects, many of the problems of the projects existed, just in a cleaner neighborhood. Selling drugs, or what we called “rollin'”, was still the fastest way for a kid to make a lot of money and have a lot of girls fast. Shootings across the street from our house were common along with break-ins, car theft, and fighting. Thankfully, we also had many parents working solid middle-class jobs to always keep the neighborhood a float. Since they weren’t allowed to move into traditional white suburbs, they were forced to stay in their own community so in many ways, it benefited us all as a whole.

What we also had commercially, was a lack of black athletes on television when they were not on the field. But when dad saw how Reggie mastered the King’s English and commanded respect for his knowledge of the game and demeanor, he was wise to tell me to observe. Reggie often commentated for ABC in the ’70s and ’80s if the Yankees were out of the playoffs.

Little did I know at that time that one day I would have to at least know many of the rules of the King’s English as well when I grew up. I would also have to not be the “typical nigga or black guy” that many of my colleagues would expect me to be, just like Reggie. I would have to talk a certain way at job interviews, avoid being labeled and yet stand up for myself and prove that I deserved to be in that class or office and not because of Affirmative Action. At the same time, I would have to be just as complex, for people in America have a hard time understanding how you can be pro-black and yet marry someone of a different race. I’m sure Reggie ran into this as to some black folks, Reggie was a sell-out with his proper talking, candy bars, and white girls. But Reggie seemed to always make sure that he represented himself and the black community well. He spoke out about teams that did not have enough black players and even advised former teammate Willie Randolph not to take the Detroit Tiger job. They were the worst of the worst in Major League baseball. Reggie threw out the question the black community always asks, “Why do we only get the job/call/White House when things cannot get any worse? That’s just setting us up to fail!”

I can’t say I idolized Reggie. The man never put food on my table, but he did wave at me when I yelled his name at a California Angels game…he did…really! I’ve memorized many of his stats, read his autobiography, visited the Baseball Hall of Fame to have my picture taken with his bust, and even named one of my kids after him. But my fascination with Mr. Jackson was never about him, but about what he represented. He was a man of class, determination, dependable, clutch-performer, and he danced to the beat of his own drum all the while paying homage to those like Robinson, Aaron, and Mays that bought the drum.

Overall, the man was much like my father.

So dad, who are you allowing to influence your son? Is it a street pimp, a corporate pimp, a drug-dealer, or a prescription drug-dealer? Do those people reflect the values that you want your son to have or the values that you have or at least want to have?

Understand this, somebody and something will influence your boys. You better take advantage of the time that you have to determine what kind of influence that will be. I’m glad my dad had the insight to do that when I was younger. While I’m no where near the man that I wanted to be, I’m no where near the man I could have been.

Happy Birthday Dad and Mr. October!