Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) held a press conference at NY Mets Citi-Field this week to announced Several Advancements in a Joint Youth Effort to expand the national pastime to underserved areas.
The following are the specifics of the program:
a) The appointment of Hall of Fame selectee Ken Griffey Jr. as a youth ambassador.
b) Financial contributions to youth baseball projects supported by New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson and former All-Stars Marquis Grissom and John Franco
c) The creation of a partnership with Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) for the training of coaches and administrators from Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program
All of the above is supported by a jointly funded $30 million MLB-MLBPA Youth development Foundation that was announced by at last years 2015 All-Star Week in Cincinnati by organizations.
Ken Griffey Jr. as the Youth Ambassador to this effort was sat in the middle of the dais between baseball commissioner Robert Manfred, Jr. and baseball players association, Executive Director, Tony Clark. Griffey joked about possibly feeling some tension sitting between these two individuals that represent different sides of the baseball equation. The dais also included John Franco, Marquis Grissom, Curtis Granderson and Andrew McCutchen.
The general effort to expand the game of baseball to as many of America's youth is critical because the reality is that baseball is indeed losing ground to other franchise sports like soccer, basketball and football, and now MMA, not only in terms of youths playing the game, but more importantly baseball is losing a huge potential fan base.
The majority of the present baseball-paying fan is part of the baby boomer population and this segment is decreasing as more and more baby boomers pass on. The next generation is not as loyal to baseball as their parents. What's worse, these subsequent younger generations are totally engulfed in other fast paced sports that feeds their low attention span. This coupled with other entertainment avenues all generated by an increasing accessibility to technology that has consumed America's youth more on a hand held devise rather than picking up a bat, glove and ball is really hurting baseball.
This new reality has caused major concern for the future of baseball and both MLB and MLBPA need to be congratulated for trying to address this growing problem before its too late.
Some executives in the commissioner's office recognize that they need to get to the very young generation in order to influence their interest in baseball. However, it is obvious that baseball needs to tweak their efforts further. Especially if it wants to reach out to America's fastest growing segment of the population, the Latino community.
The fact that there was not one Latino sitting on the dais at this press conference is an indication that baseball still does not have a full understanding, or the infrastructure to understand the Latino community and how to work within it.
The other issue is that baseball is run by a crew of 30 owners who for the most part are still basking in bright sun of add revenues and don't see the dark clouds in the horizon of the future.
The fact that games like soccer and other fast paced sports is overtaking so many Latino and non-Latino youth is something that baseball needs to address immediately if it seriously wants to attract more of America's youth to the game of baseball. In order to do this baseball must go beyond the inner city and into the hard core barrios of this nation that are the incubators for America's future generation, the Latino youth.