MLB hopes to invigorate African-American participation – USA TODAY

upton-brothers-4_3_r536_c534Major League Baseball, with a record low 7.7 % of African-Americans on opening-day rosters this season, announced the creation of a task force Wednesday in hopes of reversing the 20-year decline.

“As a social institution, Major League Baseball has an enormous social responsibility to provide equal opportunities for all people, both on and off the field,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a prepared statement. “I am proud of the work we have done thus far with the RBI program and the MLB Urban Youth Academies, but there is more that we must accomplish.

“We have seen a number of successful efforts with existing MLB task forces, and I believe we have selected the right people to effectively address the many factors associated with diversity in baseball.”

The African-American percentage in baseball this season is the lowest since the Boston Red Sox became the final team to integrate its roster in 1959, according to a USA TODAY study, that includes major-league players on the opening-day disabled lists. It’s a drop from 8.05% last season, a dramatic decline from 1995 when 19% of the rosters were African-American, and far from the peak of 27% in 1975.

“Bud is right on the spot,” veteran agent Scott Boras told USA TODAY Sports. “We’ve got to get these athletes back into baseball. But I don’t think anything will change until Major League Baseball and the NCAA wakes up.

“Until we get this remedied, the Jackie Robinsons of the world aren’t going to come to college to play baseball.”

Boras, who founded the Boras Baseball Classic to help gain exposure to high school players, recommends that MLB subsidizes college baseball scholarships. There are only 11.7 scholarships for college baseball programs, compared to 85 in football and 13 in basketball.

“If you’re a high school athlete coming from a single-parent home that doesn’t have the money to go to college,” Boras said, “you’re going to go to the sport where you can get a full scholarship. This needs to change if we want to get the best athletes in baseball.”

The dearth of African-Americans can be seen even at the high-school level, Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick says.

“At the high-school level,” Gillick told USA TODAY Sports, “the coaches get these kids in revenue-driven sports, and take them away from baseball. There’s so much pressure on these kids to even play spring football.

“We need to get the African American players back in the game, which I think would make it not only a better game, but more exciting and entertaining for everyone.”

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg owners will head the committee, with Detroit Tigers vice president Dave Dombrowski as the vice president.

The other committee members include: Hall of Famer Frank Robinson; MLB vice presidents Tom Brauswell, Wendy Lewis, Jonathan Mariner, Kim Ng and Darrell Miller; Tony Clark of the players association; Chicago White Sox vice president Kenny Williams; Roger Cador, coach of Southern University; Dennis Gilbert, special assistant to Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf; Larry Dolan of the Cleveland Indians; Derrick Hall, president of the Arizona Diamondbacks; former manager Jerry Manuel; Frank Marcos of the MLB scouting bureau; and Pat O’Conner, president of minor league baseball.

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan hopes the committee will help, but also believes that baseball needs to improve its representation in the front offices and the field. There are three African-American managers — Dusty Baker of Cincinnati, Ron Washington of Texas and Bo Porter of Houston — and Mike Hill of the Miami Marlins is the only African-American general manager.

“There has to be more involvement to attract athletes to come to baseball,” Morgan told USA TODAY Sports. “I thought the NFL was worse, with the way they handled all of their jobs, and that none were given to African-American coaches. Truthfully, we can’t go in that direction and hope this things turns around.”

Major League Baseball launched its RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) in 1989, and has built four urban academies with three others being developed. There have been more than 200 RBI participants drafted, including 14 in last year’s draft. There were also seven African-American athletes selected in the first round of last year’s June Draft, the most since 1992.

D2 Warriors Spotlight

The First Base Foundation has many student athletes playing baseball at the collegiate level this season. Here is an update on the ones playing DII ball.

Myles Babitt (So) OF/LHP, Academy of Art University: Myles has been a key contributor to the Urban Knights team. His .238 batting average is third on the team while he is second on the team in on base % (.351), runs scored (6), and total bases (19). Babitt has also made two appearances out of the bullpen for the Urban Knights, pitching 5 innings giving up 5 earned runs.

Tino Leite (So) SS/RHP, Academy of Art University: The transfer student from University of North Carolina at Greensboro has started 16 of the teams 23 games this season, and his .270 batting average is tops among the Urban Knights.

Jordan Wilder (Sr) OF, Cal State East Bay: The 2012 Cal State East Bay Offensive Player of the Year has started all 33 games for the Pioneers this season. Wilder is currently hitting .267 with 12 RBI and 23 runs scored.

Cody Slader (So) SS, Chico State: The San Diego State transfer has had an outstanding first season with the ‘Cats as he has started 25 of the teams 28 games. Cody is hitting an impressive .354 with 13 RBI and a great .881 OPS. In a 4 game series against Cal State Stanislaus Slader was 5-13 with 3 RBI, 5 runs, and 2 stolen bases, as the ‘Cats swept the CSUS Warriors.

Mike Bothelo (Sr) RHP, Chico State: The Chabot College transfer has pitched 25 innings for the 23-5 ‘Cats. Bothelo has posted a 3-1 record with a 2.88 ERA in 8 total appearances and 4 games starts with 1 complete game. In his last start, Bothelo threw 5 innings of 2 hit ball giving up only 1 run and striking out 3 while helping the ‘Cats to a 3-2 victory over SF State.

Max Eggleston (Fr) LHP, Holy Names University: In the first game of the inaugural season for the Holy Names University baseball team, Eggleston pitched 3.2 innings giving up only 2 earned runs helping the Hawks win their first ever game. Overall, Eggleston has thrown 17.2 innings with a 1-2 record while recording 9 strikeouts and only 5 walks.

Devon Zenn (Sr) IF, Sonoma State University: The College Of Marin transfer has started 28 of the Seawolves’ first 30 games of the 2013 season. In 104 at bats, the 2012 First Team All-CCAA First Baseman is hitting .279 with 7 doubles, 1 homerun, and 35 total bases and a .736 OPS.

Matt Manfre (So) RHP, Sonoma State University: The Sophomore pitcher has 2 starts in 4 total appearances he has posted a 6.97 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched.

Corbin Wirta (RFr) OF, UC San Diego: The Redshirt Freshman has played in 28 of the teams 32 games, starting in 25 of them. Wirta is 15-71 at the plate with a .383 ob%, 15 walks, and a perfect 4-4 in stolen bases. The Redwood graduate is the only starting Triton with a perfect 1.000 fielding %.

FIAT LUX: Evans Diamond’s Historic Night

On Thursday March 28th, Cal Baseball played its first home game under the lights in its 121-year history. Cal-baseball-under-the-lights-720x480

Head Coach David Esquer said that “Never could have envisioned such progress for his team two springs ago, when supporters came through with the money to save a sport that had been set for elimination by the Cal administration in a cost-cutting move,” writes Janie McCauley of the Associated Press. “It’s a game-changer for our program,” Esquer said. “I think we’ve plugged up a little bit of a competitive disadvantage to our program. Figuratively, it’s a big statement. Out there, you show that Cal baseball is not just in survival mode, but we’re in thrive mode. We’re trying to thrive as a program and move forward and advance ourselves. We’re not just trying to hang on by a thread.”

Lance Knobel of Berkeleyside writes, “The renewed support for baseball was demonstrated in the lights and a snazzy new scoreboard: the University and the baseball supporters’ foundation jointly took out $1 million in loans for the lights and scoreboard, counting on increased ticket sales and advertising for the revenue to pay back the loan. The support came from alumni like Dan McInerny, who played right field for the Bears, 1978-80. McInerny was watching from ‘cheapskate wall’ at Evans Diamond. ‘This is my favorite spot.’”

Warriors alumni Devin Pearson was the first Golden Bear to get a hit under the lights of Evans Diamond, when he led off the bottom half of the first inning with a single. Although the Bears lost to USC, 4-3, the night was still an undeniable success.

Campolindo Seeks Fourth Straight Division II Title

Campolindo Max Luckhurst

Campolindo Head Coach Max Luckhurst (Coach of the Warriors Blue Team) and California Warrior Robbie Tenerowitz

Campolindo High’s three-year run of baseball dominance could be looked upon as one continuous wave of success, and they’re looking to keep that streak going for a long time. Last season, Campolindo, coached by California Warriors summer coach Max Luckhurst, became the first East Bay baseball team in the NCS’s modern era to win three straight section championships.

“The opportunity to four-peat, it’s pretty clear to all of us that it’s never been done before,” said senior second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz, a four-year starter and summer California Warrior player. “It’s kind of like setting an unbreakable mark, which is pretty cool to think about.”

The First Base Foundation is so proud of all the successes of Max and the summer California Warriors players on the Campolindo High baseball team (Robbie Tenerowitz, Scott Singh, and Ryan Hooper), and we look forward to your season!

To read more about Campolindo’s quest to achieve a Fourth Straight Division II Title, click HERE.

Warriors In the News!

Warrior alum & College of Marin star, Ben Herrick, and current Gold Team Warrior & San Rafael Bulldog, John Robertson have been featured in the Marin IJ – take a look at the stories below!

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“In three starts, Herrick has not been perfect, but he’s been pretty darn close. After Saturday’s seven-inning stint against visiting Cañada — he allowed no earned runs and upped his record to 3-0 in a 2-1 Mariners’ victory — Herrick’s earned run average dipped to 0.69. That’s the kind of pitching thathas propelled COM to the top of the Bay Valley Conference pack with a 9-3 non-conference record.”
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 
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“After spending last summer with the Bay Area Warriors club team, Robertson said that he is confident that he is a better player. ‘It was definitely good for me. I played in almost 50 games over the summer, including a tournament in San Diego. I needed to get a lot more at-bats and a lot more experience.’ He ranked first on the team in hits, runs, doubles and stolen bases and was second in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He also led San Rafael in innings pitched.”
CLICK HERE for the full story.

The Greatest Time of the Year

Aaron SBy Aaron M. Smith

With the biggest game of the NFL season swiftly approaching this Sunday, one could make a solid guess at where most of America’s sports focus is aimed. However, I have found my football focus wavering, due to the reality that the baseball season is among us. My San Francisco 49ers will be playing in the Super Bowl this weekend, yet I have been watching baseball movies like “A League of Their Own,” “Bad News Bears,” and “Trouble with the Curve” over the past week. Baseball is here, and I couldn’t be any more excited.

MLB pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two short weeks. Many high school baseball teams are holding tryouts this week, and college teams will be having some of their first games in the following weeks. It’s the time of year for students’ focus to start shifting from their other sports like football, soccer, and basketball, back to the greatest sport in America: baseball.

Many student athletes have been grooming their baseball skills throughout the off-season to ensure that they are in top shape for the upcoming season. The First Base Foundation has had the pleasure of helping many dedicated athletes by providing dedicated coaches and a safe place for students to continue to hone their baseball aptitude. Besides our popular signature summer baseball program, the First Base Foundation has been delighted by the large numbers of dedicated ball players to show up each weekend for our Fall and Winter ball programs. They have been getting extra at-bats both in live games and in the cages. Infielders and outfielders have had an abundance of reps at many different positions, and the pitchers have had many innings against live batters.

Having watched these talented student athletes throughout the Fall and Winter off-season, my advice to them would be: As the butterflies swirl while you lace up your cleats and you grab your gloves to run onto the baseball field for tryouts and first games, trust the skills that you honed throughout the off-season, and have fun playing the game you love. Treat the game with the same amount of respect that the legends who came before you did, and remember that no one player is bigger than the team.

Good Luck Team!

Gold Blooded

 

Since birth I have been a 49er baby. It was the end of January 1982 and my parents were expecting their first child. At the same time, the San Francisco 49ers were making their way through the playoffs in what was a miraculous resurgence from being regarded as one of the worst teams in the NFL for a long time. When it was clear that the Niners would play for their first Super Bowl Victory on January 24th, my parents quietly hoped that I would wait to make my first appearance until after Super Bowl XVI. My parents were able to watch the 49ers win their first Super Bowl and I came a few weeks later.

I was born at the beginning of what would prove to be one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.  My parents have had season tickets for the majority of my life, so I have had the luxury of growing up watching in person the likes of Bill Walsh, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, “Hacksaw” Reynolds, Steve Young, Ricky Watters, Richard Dent, and many other greats. Each year it was a major disappointment for the Niners to miss the Super Bowl much less the playoffs. Unfortunately I have had to watch the team go through a disappointing stretch for nearly a decade where they have not even been a shadow of their former selves missing the playoffs 7 of the past 10 years. With their second trip to the playoffs in as many years, this recent resurgence with new coach Jim Harbaugh is eerily reminiscent to the one they made during the 1981 season.

My parents were gracious enough to give their two tickets to tomorrow’s playoff game to my brother and I. I couldn’t be a bigger mix of emotions. Joy for the chance to spend time with my brother watching one of our beloved local teams. Excitement for the possibility of watching first hand the beginning of a new San Francisco dynasty. Anxiety behind the fact the 49ers are playing against a formidable foe in the Green Bay packers, and Aaron Rogers, one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Aaron M. Smith

Finding The Right Fit

 By Eno Sarris

Finding the right place to play college baseball is not just about finding a good slot on the depth chart. The coaching staff is worth inspecting, too.

I recently wrote a piece for The Hardball Times Annual about The Stanford Swing: Supposedly the excellent baseball program in Palo Alto is teaching its kids a swing that doesn’t translate well to the professional leagues, so I investigated. Without revealing the conclusions — I wouldn’t mind if you bought the annual, after all — you could say that the school definitely has a unique philosophy when it comes to hitting.

If your swing didn’t line up with some of the things Stanford’s program teaches, it might make sense to think long and hard about the fit when it comes to the actual mechanics of playing the game. Most schools have philosophies when it comes to pitching and specific pitches, too. And you may not get all the information from the school itself — ask about these things, sure, but then see if you can find a knowledgeable person from outside that program to tell you their appraisal. Some focus on the feet at the plate, some want quiet hands, some want their pitchers to avoid the cutter, and some preach ground balls. Every school has a quirk that comes from the coaching staff and is designed to make them more competitive in the college game.

Of course, making a fit between a student-athlete and a college program is a delicate dance. It isn’t just about depth charts, and it isn’t just about the mechanics that the coaching staff prefers, either. And that’s why you get plenty of different-looking swings coming out of Stanford University. Look at Carlos Quentin or Ryan Garko or John Mayberry, for example, and they’ve all got distinct-looking swings. Stanford is no factory, and the different players that have come through it all had their own reasons for attending the school.

There are other ways to find a fit. Successful players in the past may have decided during the recruitment process that they preferred the exposure the Stanford program provided. Since the Pac-12 television channel shows Stanford games, and the program manages to advance to the Super Regionals most years in the College World Series, there are a lot of chances for player to demonstrate his abilities publicly. Or maybe they wanted a better backup plan — a background in Stanford academics provides many options for a baseball player that didn’t make it professionally in the sport. Proximity to family and cost of attending are also important facets involved in your choice of college.

But, even when it comes to the baseball aspects of choosing a program, it’s important to think all the way down to the hitting drills. Does your approach fit the program you’re looking at? How will your swing, or your pitching motion, look on their diamond?

Dedicated to the Game Pt. 2

By O’Koyea Dickson

Baseball has really taught me a lot about myself. I’ve played high school ball, college ball, and now I’m playing professional ball, and I have never stopped learning new things about myself.

For instance, in high school, I was able to get away with not working as hard as I work now. This should not be the case for you. You should start working really hard. Be someone who takes the time to do the extra practice, like taking more reps in the cage, or fielding more ground balls than everyone else does. It might not seem like its making a difference right now, but trust me, you will be grateful for all that extra practice once you start playing ball in college.

I didn’t learn any of this until my third year of college. I had to rapidly figure out how to take my game to a whole new level, because suddenly there were players who were just as good, or even better than me.

The three years I spent playing college baseball were the best three years of my baseball career thus far. I learned so much during that time. I took the necessary time to develop my skills as a player, and did all the extra reps I could. These steps helped me prepare for the games in a whole new way.

As a professional baseball player, I now know that hard work and dedication are what it takes in order for me to improve as a player each and every day.

My message to you is that it’s not an easy road to achieve your dreams, but in the end, it’s all worth it. You have the strength within you to become the best… so why settle for anything less?

Dedicated to the Game Pt. 1

By O’Koyea Dickson

It takes a significant amount of time and dedication every year to prepare for your baseball season. That dedication should come from within you, motivating you to strive to the best baseball player you can be. Whether its working hard in the gym, taking swings in the cage, fielding ground balls, running sprints, eating healthy, or getting enough rest, the dedication and effort you put into your training will help you to propel yourself to play at a higher level.

One of the most essential things I have learned is that eating a healthy breakfast in the morning will give you the energy and endurance to make it through morning workouts, and then help you to maintain that energy throughout the school day.

This breakfast should include a lot of protein. Protein is the necessary ingredient for maintaining your energy levels throughout the day. When I wake up in the morning, I make sure to have enough protein in my breakfast so I can make it through my workouts. An example of this would be a scramble of 5 eggs, chicken, some spinach, and chopped red bell peppers.

As I prepare for my workouts in the gym, I have to get into the zone mentally, and maintain my desire to work hard and improve, and remember not cheat on any part of my workout. When you’re having trouble pushing through that last set in the gym, fight and get through it. When you push yourself to your limit and then past that limit, that’s when you know that you’re getting a great workout.

My trainer is a strength coach for the San Jose Sharks, and he pushes me to a limit that I never knew I had. When I’m working out I always keep one thing on my mind – My dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player. With that dream in mind, I can accomplish any workout. Find your dream, and let it propel you to have the best workout possible.