Black baseball is coming back.
It’s hard to deny when you look at the stars of last night’s All-Star Game. Giancarlo Stanton and Byron Buxton powered the American League to a 3-2 victory at Dodger Stadium.
In the fourth inning, with the AL trailing 2-0, Stanton, the New York Yankees’ DH/OF, hit a two-run bomb to tie the game at 2. The next batter, Buxton, the Minnesota Twins star centerfielder, hit a bomb, too.
It was back-to-back bombs. The crowd was electric as both homers sailed into the night. Stanton’s shot measured a ridiculous 457 feet and wound up in the left field bleachers where Stanton used to sit as a kid growing up in L.A. and going to Dodgers games with his pops.
Buxton’s homer went 425 feet and gave the AL the lead for good. Stanton became the first Black player to win the All-Star Game MVP since Prince Fielder in 2011.
This was a fitting nightcap to the festivities that took place in L.A. the last few days.
For sure, MLB had lost its way with Black folks and kids. Many kids started focusing on football and basketball. Playing baseball was an afterthought.
It’s the reason Mookie Betts wore a T-shirt during batting practice that read: We Need More Black People at the Stadium.
Betts, the Los Angeles Dodgers star right fielder, was spot on with his message. Currently, the MLB is just 7.2 percent Black.
Going back 15-20 years, MLB invested in Latin America and set up baseball academies. And a ton of Hispanic talent flourished and made it to the big leagues.
Recently, the sport has turned its attention to the Black community and is finally starting to see results.
The MLB Draft was inspiring, to say the least. Three of the first five picks were Black: Kumar Rocker (Texas) was the third pick, Termarr Johnson (Pittsburgh) fourth, and Elijah Green (Washington) fifth. Those players all participated in the MLB’s DREAM Series, a showcase event that focuses on “the dynamics of pitching and catching for a diverse group of High School elite athletes, predominantly African-American.”
Last All-Star Game, MLB pledged $150 million to the Players Alliance, a group whose purpose is to help increase diversity in baseball.
In all, five of the first 17 draft selections were Black. It’s encouraging moving forward, especially with many parents steering their kids away from football because of the physical dangers of playing that sport.
Aaron Judge, who is certainly big enough to play in the NFL, chose baseball. Smart man.
Judge was the league’s top vote-getter. At one point, the top two vote-getters were Judge and Mookie Betts, who wound up getting hurt and falling back in the voting.
With the injury to Mike Trout, the American League had an all-Black starting outfield with Stanton, Judge, and Buxton.
In all, eight Black players were elected to the All-Star team, five as starters voted by the fans.
Baseball has always been strong in the Black culture. The biggest and brightest Black star athletes came from baseball. Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays made Black people proud in this country.
And although Black players weren’t allowed to play in the Majors before 1947, those players are all over the record books and have had a huge impact on the game.
Before the All-Star Game, MLB took time to recognize and honor Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947 when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Actor Denzel Washington delivered a goose-bump-worthy essay about the man who change the game and this country, for that matter.
Baseball also celebrated Jackie’s widow, Rachel Robinson’s 100th birthday.
Give MLB credit for never forgetting Robinson and his importance. His No. 42 is the only number retired by every team in the sport. No other league in this country has a player of that status.
And he was a Black baseball player.
We saw two more in Stanton and Buxton put their talents on display for all of MLB America to see. Brothers are making a comeback in the national pastime. The All-Star Game was proof positive.