La Velle Neal's Sunday Insider: Plenty of work to do on baseball diversity

Affirmative action is making ground in youth programs, but black players are still scarce at the major league level.


Commissioner Bud Selig: “I am satisfied [from watching] the minor leagues, watching the draft. I like what I’m seeing. I do think we are getting there.”

Photo: Morry Gash, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig looked out at a luncheon crowd of wide-eyed young baseball players Tuesday at Target Field. What he saw was progress.

"It is days like today that make you feel proud to be the commissioner of baseball," Selig said.

Selig traveled to Minneapolis to address about 430 players and coaches in town for the RBI (Revitalizing Baseball in the Inner Cities) World Series. The four-day tournament ends on Sunday with championship games scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Target Field. Players, ages 13 to 18, hung on every word as Selig spoke from a head table that also included Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor and Bert Blyleven.

Blyleven made a point of going to every table to meet and talk with the participants. "I was a kid once, too," he said.

The RBI program is one way MLB is trying to address the low numbers of blacks playing the game. RBI began in 1989 with 100 participants. This year, that number is about 200,000 nationwide, and the Dominican Republic and Venezuela each had teams in this World Series. MLB has spent $30 million on the project.

But is it really progress?

On Opening Day, blacks made up 8.8 percent of MLB rosters, a tick up from 8.5 percent in 2011.

Since 2001, that percentage has fluctuated between 8.2 and 10.2 percent. When I first watched Dick Allen clobber baseballs into the seats at Comiskey Park in the early 1970s, blacks made up more than 20 percent of rosters.

During a media session following the luncheon, I asked Selig how he sees progress. The lack of significant change of blacks playing at the major league level over the past 10 years has made me skeptical.

"We have spent a lot of money on academies," Selig said. "We have programs like this. I am satisfied [from watching] the minor leagues, watching the draft. I like what I'm seeing. I do think we are getting there."

RBI alumni include CC Sabathia, Carl Crawford, Coco Crisp, Justin Upton and James Loney. Fifteen players selected in the June draft were part of RBI programs.

MLB also is building Urban Youth Academies across the country that combine baseball/softball development and education. Twins prospect Aaron Hicks trained at the academy in Compton, Calif. -- the first one built. There's also one in Houston, one is about to open in New Orleans, and plans for ones in Miami and Philadelphia are moving forward.

If MLB is serious about addressing the decline of blacks in baseball, it must continue to support these efforts and continue to build academies across the country. And everyone has to be patient.

"I do think you will see this get better in the next three to four years," Selig said. "We are working to make that happen."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)


Houston 23 FINAL
Pittsburgh 30
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 98 FINAL
Cleveland 107
New Orleans 88 FINAL
Washington 84
Milwaukee 120 FINAL
New York 107
Philadelphia 88 FINAL
Brooklyn 99
Charlotte 114 FINAL
Atlanta 117
Sacramento 99 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Memphis 103 FINAL
Dallas 108
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: How confident are you the Twins will improve in 2015?

Weekly Question