Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's Ken Griffey Jr's fault that more black kids don't play baseball!

Every year about this time we get the various columns and sports talk radio shows about the declining number of blacks in Major League Baseball. Every year the talking and writing heads regurgitate the same reasons:

* It's not exciting enough. ( It is boring as hell. )

* Parents can't afford to put their kids on travel teams. ( Translated you have to go find baseball when other sports will come to you if you are good. )

* Baseball doesn't market itself properly. ( It doesn't unless you remember seeing The Beatles live on the Ed Sullivan Show. )

* Lack of father's in home equates to lack of interest in baseball. ( Utter BS as people are assuming that ALL dads like baseball. My dad hates it. )

* It's easier to get scholarships in football and basketball. ( It is, see second reason. )

While all may have some merit they all miss the point. You see the reason many black kids don't play baseball is all the fault of MLB superstar Ken Griffey Jr.

Why, you ask?

Because he couldn't stay healthy and give kids something to aspire to when it comes to baseball. In his prime Griffey was Jordan or Lebron to many black kids. He was the last baseball player I remember that had many African American kids and adults rushing out to get his Jersey even if they didn't root for the Seattle Mariners.

He was the last baseball player I remember seeing kids emulate and want to play like. The way he seemed to be having so much fun on the field made baseball look fun and cool to many black kids who otherwise would have ignored it. Black kids could relate to Griffey and wanted to play baseball because of that. It seemed that although normally inept at marketing itself MLB had a gem in Griffey and even they couldn't screw this up.

But then came the injuries. When Griffey wasn't Griffey anymore there wasn't anyone there to pick up the slack. Baseball became boring to watch again. Kids lost interest.

So next year when it's time to have the "Why don't black kids play baseball anymore" conversation just remember it's because "Junior" wasn't "Junior" anymore.

George Cook

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