Tuesday, April 15, 2008

For MLB, problem lies in marketing, not diversity

In a recent post, Aram states that Major League Baseball should not be concerned by the fact that 8.2 percent of its players are black, the lowest total in more than two decades. Why? Because baseball is still unquestionably the most diverse sport. Furthermore, he asserts that:
As long as equal opportunities are being granted then there is nothing for MLB to do. They cannot force African-American kids to play their sport when basketball is more accessible and football more glamorous.
That's where I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. There is no question that basketball is more accessible and football is more glamorous. For underprivileged kids, it's a lot easier to buy a basketball and go down to the park and play with their friends than it is to buy a glove, bat, cleats and baseballs and organize a game of nine-on-nine. And, in an me-first society where crazy dunks and touchdown dances dominate ESPN, it's easy to see why kids would find America's pastime to be boring.

With that said, MLB shouldn't have to accept this. It shouldn't just allow an entire race to effectively lose interest in its game simply because it is already "diverse."

MLB would be wise to market its game in all areas, whether it be in Nebraska, Japan or New York City. Give inner-city kids a reason to turn in the Jordans for a pair of spikes. Show them that baseball can be cool, that it can be an option for them.

It's OK if kids try baseball and realize they're not passionate about it. But, right now, too many kids, often minorities from the inner-city, never even give baseball a chance. Again, why should MLB be content with this? In the end, it is the one that will suffer the most.

It's also important to note that the recent statistics aren't a reflection on our country or our society, but rather on Major League Baseball, and Major League Baseball alone.


Anonymous said...

Ryan Howard has a chance to be a key component to this. And if Torii Hunter played for a big market club, they'd be marketing him big time.

Jarred Amato said...

I couldn't agree more, and in the future, don't forget about David Price. He's already made a great impact here in Nashville and with his personality, I wouldn't be surprised if the entire country eventually fell in love with him.

Greg Viverito said...

Doesn't Torii Hunter play for LA? I think that qualifies as a big market...

Also, I do think that marketing could stand to improve, but like Aram said, I would challenge you to find a more diverse roster than the Yankees, or many baseball teams for that matter. Sure there are some NBA teams that have a strong international presence, but I think baseball is quite diverse, maybe just not in the biracial definition Americans are most comfortable with

Jarred Amato said...

The question here is not diversity. It's apparent that baseball is the most diverse sport. The point I'm trying to make is that it's important for MLB to improve the marketing of its product, particularly in the inner cities, where the dominant hip-hop culture has made basketball and football "cooler" than baseball.

Baseball is never going to be the "it" sport in the inner cities, but MLB still needs to give kids the opportunity to get involved with the sport.

Take, for example, what Vanderbilt baseball program is doing. The Commodores just created a partnership with Nashville RBI, where they will pay for 100 kids to come to each Sunday home game. The kids will get a David Price jersey, free hot dog and soda and have a chance to go on the field for the national anthem and run the bases afterwards.

It's these types of grassroots efforts that will make a difference. Even if just three or four kids end up developing a passion for baseball, that's three or four more than there would have been without the program. And you never know, one of those kids could end up being the next David Price...

Greg Viverito said...

Well said Jarred, I see the difference. It's tough to sell though when there's such a disconnect between the hip hop culture of the inner cities and the increasingly international culture of baseball. That's not to say there can't be progress though, I think we can agree on that.

Aram Hanessian said...

Jarred, I think you're missing the point, which is why does MLB need to market to the African American community? There is no need to go out of their way to do this. Its just not an issue that they need to focus on. Even with the declining percentages the game is more popular than ever so why make an issue out of it. That being said, there are programs, compton has a state of the art facility and RBI is a great program, but its not like its an issue they need to focus on. Anybody who has a bp subscription should really read sheehans rant, its quite interesting.

Tony Arnold said...

How accessible is little league baseball, travel leagues, etc. to the African-American youth?

Programs like Nashville's RBI are important. Because I seriously wonder how diverse little leagues are in suburban areas. Are there good little league programs even available in urban areas?

It seems that today, if you want to even play college level sports, you have to start young and go to special camps most of your youth, and play in development travel leagues.

Are these accessible to minorities in the US cities? They are in basketball for sure, although sometimes I am a little suspicious of the motives of people who make them available to under-privileged youth without cost.

Anyway, to Jarred's point, is MLB baseball doing enough at the youth level in the US, specifically in urban areas? Any programs that get young people involved in something healthy, that builds self-esteem, and creates a sense of teamwork and camaraderie is good for society as a whole.

So many of the Central and South American governments have expansive programs for developing baseball skills in their youth.

Jarred Amato said...

"Any programs that get young people involved in something healthy, that builds self-esteem, and creates a sense of teamwork and camaraderie is good for society as a whole."

Couldn't agree more, Tony. And it's not like baseball doesn't benefit from these programs either. MLB could always use more Ryan Howards and David Prices.

Also, you make a great point about basketball. AAU, while it may give inner-city kids more opportunities to play, is full of corrupt and selfish adults who are often times looking to exploit their players.