The question isn’t “Why aren’t Black kids playing baseball?” The question should be “Why do they stop playing baseball?” Success stories like Philadelphia’s Mo’ne Davis and the all-Black Little League World Series U.S. champion Jackie Robinson West All Stars prove that Black children are still playing baseball. It’s when baseball gets serious that multiple factors discourage Black children and parents from sticking with baseball. Other sports like football and basketball are typically cheaper, and the end result, while still difficult to attain, is a much quicker path to success than baseball.
Getting to the Show
The competition for making it to the Major League level in baseball is a long one, and it can be difficult to see the goal at the end. There are 32 Major League Baseball teams with 25-man rosters on Opening Day. Each team has farm organizations at three different levels: AAA, AA and A. The NCAA has baseball programs at its Division I, II and III levels. Young athletes who hope to make it to one of those levels play for their high school teams and then can pay extra to play summer ball on competitive travel teams. They travel to tournaments across the country with hopes of getting noticed by scouts.
Unlike baseball, the path to the NFL is straight-forward. The usually linear path from high school to college to the NFL is easy for players to navigate and scouts to follow.
Former MLB pitcher LaTroy Hawkins said it best. “Baseball in the United States has become a sport for the rich,” he said. According to a Sun–Sentinel report on the world of youth baseball, parents of players in the highest-level travel baseball competitions spend as much as $24,000 annually on tournaments, equipment and training.
Recreational park leagues are nothing compared to the highly competitive baseball leagues. Youth baseball clubs are organizations that mirror Minor League Baseball. “Owners” hire former professional players, hitting instructors, pitching instructors and trainers to develop their players. Talent showcases, where scouts show up to evaluate talent, cost money to attend. Fees to join these baseball clubs can range from $1,200 to $2,500 depending on which team and what resources they have.
The business of youth baseball essentially creates a system where some kids are handpicked to play for teams. Parents offer coaches money to try and get their kids into the lineups. Teams make offers to parents to get their star child to play games for their teams.
It costs to get the best training or be on the best team.