Baseball has existed for over a century, but among inner-city children it’s almost non-existent. Why isn’t this sport as popular as football and basketball, especially given baseball’s potential to offer the successful player both a very lavish lifestyle as well as a long playing career?
Frank White, the Minnesota Twins Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) coordinator, believes the love of sports, no matter what type of sport, often is nurtured at home. He surmised that for many inner-city children, their parents probably grew up around basketball and football, so that it is probably what they will talk about or watch on television during family time.
“Most children will be interested in what they are exposed to in their homes,” he pointed out.
White, a St. Paul native and longtime baseball proponent, played youth and high school baseball. His late father once barnstormed with Negro Leaguers during their heyday and was a featured player on several local baseball teams.
Furthermore, White believes that Black youth began flocking to football and basketball, and as a result abandoned baseball as early as 1958-59, when colleges began offering substantial scholarships to young athletes. He said baseball today only offers, on average among Division I schools, 11.7 scholarships a year, and that number is usually spread out between 30 athletes, compared to football that gives an average of 90 full-ride scholarships a year.
“Most do not know that even Dave Winfield did not get a full ride to the University of Minnesota for baseball, until he started to play basketball as well,” added White on his fellow St. Paulite.
Also, playing baseball is pricey, which can be problematic for the family of the inner-city child wanting to play because of the expensive purchasing of bats, spikes and gloves, continued White, who also decried the limited Minnesota spring and summertime, which are prime times for baseball.
“This is not the best state when it comes to playing baseball to begin with due to the weather. Therefore, baseball is a seasonal sport out here,” he pointed out.
White strongly suggested children start playing the game as early as six years old — if they start as late as 12, their success rate isn’t as good. He also encouraged parents to avoid having their child solely focus on one sport too soon. There’s no guarantee that playing basketball and football is a clear path to success, he advised.
“Keeping your child’s focus only on basketball and football also diminishes their chances of success, especially when they can succeed in baseball as well,” reiterated White.
White wants people “to be open-minded to the fact that a child with athletic abilities of strength and speed can be very successful in [baseball]. “We are denying our [Black] kids the opportunity to succeed in other areas when we only keep their focus on basketball and football.”
Julia Toles welcomes reader responses to [email protected]