Thom Loverro: Trying to turn the tide for blacks in baseball -- starting at home

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Major League Baseball announced last week it is forming a task force to study ways to reverse the decline of black players in the game, who this season make up an all-time low of 7.7 percent of major league rosters.

They might want to talk to Antonio Scott.

Scott is a 34-year-old black District resident who loves baseball -- so much so that he devotes much of his time in a labor of love as general manager of the DC Grays, Washington's team in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, an amateur summer wooden-bat league in the Mid-Atlantic.

He also runs youth baseball camps in the District and is on the front lines of baseball development. Scott sees the struggles to get black youths interested in the game that his older brother, father and grandfather all played.

"My family comes from Panama, and the game is deeply embedded in my family history," Scott said.

Those connections have been lost to a generation of young black athletes who see football and basketball as far more attractive options.

"There are several factors," Scott said. "You have kids who say the game is lame, boring and just not entertaining enough. That is not only the kids who play but also for the people in the stands."

But the real issue in trying to lure young black athletes into baseball is opportunities -- or lack thereof.

"Look at baseball in college," said Scott, who was an outfielder at Howard, a school that cut baseball in 2002. "Most of the big-time college programs get just 11 or 12 full scholarships to divide up among 30 players or so. If you are a black kid in high school, when it comes to recruiting for colleges, you can get more out of football and basketball than a partial baseball scholarship. You can go to the minor leagues out of high school, but unless you are one of the top picks, you're not going to be paid very much money," Scott said.

"If that task force was to ask me how they should proceed, the first thing I would do is reach out to every single black player in the major leagues and get their feedback, talk to them about their backgrounds, their neighborhoods, the Little Leagues they played in and what worked there," he said.

"But I don't really know what the answer is," he said. "It has gone from 27 percent participation to 7.7 percent. It is something I think about all the time."

Scott said his DC Grays team (dcgrays.com) -- which begins its season June 6 at Hoy Field at Gallaudet -- operates free baseball clinics throughout the summer.

"We reach out to church groups and youth groups to bring their kids," he said.

And he hopes that somehow, in his own corner of the District, he is introducing a generation of black youths to the game that he loves -- his own task force.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

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The Washington Examiner