MLB Moves To Address Diversity Issues

A day after a New York Times story highlighted the declining percentage of black players in the majors,  Major League Baseball announced three priority initiatives aimed at reversing that trend.

The On-Field Diversity Task Force will focus on expanding Major League Baseball's existing urban leagues and academies, such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI); improving and modernizing coaching; and aggressively marketing players.

Jerry Manuel (Photo by George Gojkovich).

Jerry Manuel (Photo by George Gojkovich).

Former White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel will play a key role in the task force, according to a release from MLB, as the day-to-day leader reporting to Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, who is the task force chairman.

"The recommendations made by the On-Field Diversity Task Force result from extensive research, meetings and conversations with people of various disciplines and unique perspectives," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "I commend Dave Dombrowski and all members of the Task Force for their thoughtfulness regarding this complex situation, which will require strategic steps in order to reach a long-term solution.  I believe that these recommendations mark the start of addressing our challenges and making the sport of Jackie Robinson more accessible to young players of all races."

Selig unveiled the task force a year ago. Some of the initial findings revealed that youth baseball is unavailable in some areas because of the high cost of equipment and a lack of fields. It also showed that many young black athletes were picking sports other than baseball because of the paucity of scholarships compared to college football and basketball.

According to MLB, 8.3 percent of players on Opening Day rosters characterized themselves as black. The New York Times, citing researched by SABR's Mark Armour, said the highest percentage was 19 percent in 1986.

MLB did point to a few positive developments, including the fact that 13 players who characterized themselves as black or African-American were selected in the first rounds of the 2012-2013 drafts. The seven chosen in 2012 were the most by total and percentage (22.6 percent) since 1992.