Everyone wants to be a baller, but no one wants to be a baseball player.
Listen to any hip-hop song today and most likely you’ll hear a lyric about being raised in the hood and lacking the means to just live. Listen to many black athletes and they’ll talk about how basketball and football were their only way out of the streets. Rappers want to be ballers, ballers want to be rappers, but no one from the city wants to play on the diamond.
This year, Major League Baseball announced that 8.5 percent of its athletes were black. This is way less than what it was 20 years ago.
The league says these recent studies are presenting the decline of black athletes in baseball through skewed numbers that don’t accurately relay the facts. However, they do admit that there has been a decline, and it’s still steep. In 1975, black players accounted for 19 percent of the league. Today, that percentage has dropped by half.
The MLB has initiated programs to target urban communities, such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and MLB’s Urban Youth Academy. But this may not be enough to get to the root of the problem.
Despite the lack of black players in the sport, an overall lack of diversity is not the problem. According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the MLB received a B+ in 2013. That's not too bad. The same report notes that number of Latino players rose to 28.2 percent. There were increases in the number of Asian players and international players as well.
The root of the problem might be something more basic, something that rappers rap about all the time in addition to where they came from. It’s the root of all evil, and the root of this problem. The nation’s oldest sport might be too expensive for the nation’s youth.
A survey of over 1000 parents asked them what sport they considered to be the most costly. The result? A third of them agreed that football was the most expensive, followed by baseball and hockey.
Well, that makes no sense. If baseball is too expensive, why is football so prevalent among today’s urban youth? The answer lies within our fine post-secondary educational institutions. For colleges, the better the football program, the more people will want to come to your school and the more revenue.
Last year, the University of Texas made $104.5 million from its football program alone. Coming in second and third after Texas was Michigan with $85 million, and Alabama with $81.9 million.
Successful college football programs are a money maker and colleges are more interested in recruiting football players than baseball players. There are 67,887 college football players in the NCAA. The numbers for baseball players tally up to less than half of that.
Baseball can’t compete. While both sports are costly, the odds of winning a scholarship are greater for football than for baseball.
So why aren’t rappers rapping about being baseball players? The answer is baseball doesn’t compute in the current system. Football makes money. Urban communities produce extraordinary athletes. Put two and two together and the result is: jackpot.