"Baseball is a wide-open sport,” [Rob Manfred, commissioner-elect of Major League Baseball" said. He added, “It’s a great sport for people from all sorts of backgrounds.”
Yet as the 2014 season opened, only 8.3 percent of major league players were African-American, according to the league. That is a drop from a high of 19 percent of players in 1986, according to the Society of American Baseball Research.
Many theories have been proposed to explain the dwindling participation of young players in urban areas: a lack of space, a dearth of organized programs to replace the lost traditions of sandlot ball and street games, the small number of college scholarships available, the expense of buying equipment and playing in elite travel leagues … Yankees pitcher C. C. Sabathia recently told The New York Times that the tradition of children playing catch with their fathers was difficult to sustain in one-parent households. “It’s hard to get kids to play,” he said.
Martha Ackmann, a professor of gender studies at Mount Holyoke College, said the promotional appeal of baseball as a nostalgic sport had contributed to a lack of racial and gender diversity.
“If we keep looking back to the good old days, we’re not looking forward,” Ackmann, who has written widely about baseball, said in a telephone interview.