The disappearance of African Americans in Major League Baseball

The disappearance of African Americans in Major League Baseball

Tim Goodrum is a respected baseball instructor, consultant, and advisor. He manages Elite Metro Sports and Cages in Fayetteville, a baseball and softball facility owned by his son, Niko, a FCHS grad and player in the Minnesota Twins system.

Recently I was asked to be interviewed about the disappearance of the African American baseball player in Major League Baseball. I have a son that was drafted in the second round of the MLB Draft from Fayette County High in 2010. I have spent most of the past seven years monitoring the progress of my son as he climbs the minor league ladder to fulfill his Major League dream.  Before he was drafted I spent three years researching scouting reports on the players whom the Major League scouts considered to be the best and the route these player navigated to achieve these reports.
In 2012 I organized the non-profit Hit and Run Sports Academy with a mission to raise monies to provide facilities to assist low income and at risk kids entrance to baseball. During this period, a proposal was drafted and sent to the then-Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig. The proposal outlined the intent and number of affected kids and families in the metropolitan Atlanta area and surrounding counties. Many of these families were African American, however the target was to impact economically challenged families overall.
Since 2006, there have been eight African American baseball players drafted from the five public high schools in Fayette County. I happen to know each player and their families. I also have followed the path that was taken for each of these ballplayers to be drafted. Five of the eight players were drafted in the top 10 rounds. Three of the eight players are currently still playing in the system, with one of the three now in the Major Leagues.
The common denominator of all eight players, other than their phenomenal ability and talent, is that their parents were economically able to support their desire to play the game of baseball. The parents had the financial means to support the demanding and now necessary avenue to highlight their young player’s gifts and talents.
This leads me to why I agreed to do the interview of the disappearance of the the African American in Major League Baseball. Without the finances to train and participate in showcases, individual instruction and travel baseball, the low income player has no avenue to the Major League, College, Travel, or High School teams.
Major League baseball teams have invested millions of dollars in the Dominican Republic. As of today, all 30 Major League Clubs have academies in the Dominican. Most of the facilities have state-of-the-art equipment, fields, training facilities, trainers, coaches, and weight rooms. The majority of the MLB clubs have had these type of academies since the 1980s.
The 2016 MLB opening day roster revealed 83 Dominican players. This is from a country that has slightly over 10,500,000 people. In comparison, the state of Georgia has a population of a little over 10,000,000. There were 65 African American players on 2016 MLB opening day rosters. This is from a country that has a population of over 320,000,000.
The Minor League Program, which feeds the Major League System, is staffed with over 42 percent Hispanic players. Where do these players come from? Mainly from the 30 to 35 foreign academies that are funded by the 30 Major League Teams.
Reports show that MLB teams spend approximately $125 million per season operating some 35 year-round baseball academies in the Dominican and Venezuela. They are also spending several hundred million dollars in signing bonuses each year to boys who then enter the Dominican Summer League, which is the cornerstone of the MLB’s player development system. What this means in dollars is that the MLB is fusing an estimated half a billion dollars of revenue into the Dominican economy each year.
According to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 24.1 percent of African American families in the U.S. live at or below the National Poverty Level. This percentage translates to a family of four earning a gross yearly income of $24,300 or $434.00 per week. The African American family has the highest  poverty rate of any race in America. Non-Hispanic Whites are the lowest in this statistic at 9 percent. The U.S. Poverty Statistic highlights the main hurdle that the African American player faces when attempting to compete in the sport of baseball.
MLB has worked in conjunction with some of the larger cities around the country to open Baseball Urban Youth Academies. This is no comparison to the dollar or magnitude of facility numbers that are being funneled to the Dominican. There are five of these American Academies in the U.S., however the closest to Georgia is New Orleans, and that’s eight hours away. The other unit that the MLB had some association with is the Reviving Baseball in Inner City (RBI). This program is connected with the Boys and Girls Club and does not provide the focus of training that is needed to level the playing ground for the American ball player. In simple terms, the American player is being taught to play checkers, while the Latin player is being taught to play chess. Both games are played on the same board, however both require two different levels of skill.
My son Niko opened the Elite Metro Sports and Cages last year in an effort to provide a facility that would assist kids that could not afford the higher priced facilities. Niko also rolled out his Annual Free Infield Camp that was hosted at the Fayette Recreation Baseball Fields. It is his vision to give back to his community and pass down some of vital fundamentals that he has learned during his professional career. Something needs to be done to help our kids who do not have the resources to keep up, but still want to learn to play the game we love. It’s a start, but there is so much more that can be done.
When the question arises of why the African American is not in Major League Baseball, the answer can be traced back to 1947. Why did Branch Rickey really sign Jackie Robinson as the first modern day African American Major League Baseball player?  Economics.