Today is one of the more important days during the regular season where all Major League players don the No. 42 jersey and pay their respects to Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier back in 1947.
Now, while that was a seminal moment in American history, the game of baseball has lost its influence in the black community.
In 1995, 19 percent of players were black. The highest rate we've seen in the sport of baseball, but we've seen a troubling trend throughout the past two decades.
At the start of last season, the MLB was only 7.7 percent black. To give some perspective with those numbers, the NFL and NBA have surpassed the 60 percent mark (75 percent in NBA and 64 percent in NFL).
There are a handful of reasons for this dip, the biggest one financially of course, but it is imperative for the MLB to tap into the black youth and get these numbers surging again.
There are a few ways to make this happen. Ken Rosenthal, now of the Athletic, did a great article on this outlining a few suggestions. First, Orioles outfielder and former Mariners product Adam Jones suggests for more infrastructure in America. He would like to see the MLB use a similar model to what teams have done in places such as the Dominican Republic or Venezuela to help with education and facilities.
Chris Daniels of KING5 reports on how the Seattle Mariners have made an impact in the Dominican Republic: https://kng5.tv/2Hqf5bW
Another suggestion is getting the NCAA to increase the amount of scholarships for baseball players. Right now, a program can give out less than 12 scholarships per team. The MLB would love to fund more free rides in the college game, but there are logistical hoops to go through.
Finally, and this goes back to the financial side of things, the MLB needs to keep pouring money into inner city youth organizations. This is something Major League Baseball has done for roughly 20 years, but something individual teams can do more of as well. The Chicago White Sox are a great example of this. They spend more than $400,000 per year according to the organization on equipment, coaches and facilities and actually produced a top-5 pick in last year's MLB draft.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier 71 years ago and when he emerged on the scene he was one of the most electric guys to play the game.
Think about some of the greats--Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Frank Robinson, etc. Now, think about some of the stars today with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Mookie Betts and Andrew McCutchen (just to name a handful).
The sport would inherently be a better product if that 7.7 percent number could rise into the mid teen's and hopefully we can see an upward trend at some point because this declining trend is discouraging and hopefully the slide ends in the foreseeable future.
Jackie Robinson Day is fantastic, but the trailblazing memories of 1947 are fading away from the game.