KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum welcomed local students, former Major Leaguers, and the Still Got Game Foundation on Monday, helping get more young people interested in America’s Pastime.
It’s part of the nonprofit’s effort to, “exchange ideas, provide resources, volunteer, and develop and promote programming that supports social change for a more just, sustainable, and educated world,” according to its news release.
The effort comes at a time when Major League Baseball is going out of its way to expand diversity on its rosters. Data at the start of the 2023 season show roughly 40% of players come from diverse backgrounds, but that only about six percent were black. The overwhelming majority are either White or Latino.
Twenty-one year Major League Veteran LaTroy Hawkins says there are a few reasons for the disparity, including the fact that baseball requires equipment and large teams to play. Colleges are also less likely to give full scholarships for baseball spots.
“A lot of African Americans took the other route playing sports where they can get a scholarship and get their education paid for and that’s basketball and football and sports like that,” Hawkins said.
That’s why NLBM President Bob Kendrick says meeting former major leaguers and walking through the museum in Kansas City can light a spark in future ballplayers.
“I really do believe that up close and personal interaction with those who have achieved a dream carries so much weight,” Kendrick said. “We know we’ve got work to do and events like this one, museums like this one, play a tremendous role in helping regenerate interest in our sport amongst a group of young people who might not have that connection in a way that we would like them to have that connection.”
Both Kendrick and Hawkins agree that recent efforts by MLB, its Players Association, and other groups are helping young players develop to either play baseball or be part of the league in ways they might not have known about otherwise.
“You see in the last few [MLB] Drafts you see a lot of African American players go in that first round and all throughout the draft,” Hawkins said.