It seems like every 2-3 years, someone writes an exhaustive article asking why, exactly, young African-American men do not want to play baseball. This one's different. Now major league players are getting involved:
"[Twins centerfielder Tobii] Hunter, 30, and other African-American players have grown tired of waiting. They are contributing $10,000 each to launch an urban Little League program, ... inviting players of all races and nationalities to contribute. It is designed to sway youth toward baseball, providing equipment and transportation and upgrading facilities. 'We know people have been trying, but it's time to take things in our own hands,' Hunter says. 'I don't see more inner-city kids playing baseball. It seems like it's just getting worse. So we want to do it ourselves. ... No advertising people. No one from the commissioner's office. ... We, as players, are going to see what we can do about it.'"
And if you tend to be a little emotional about your baseball, this breaks your heart: "'This is exactly what baseball needs,' Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi says....'We're losing almost all of the inner-city athletes to basketball and football. And that's sad. Here's a game that prides itself on Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson, and we can't get the next generation to even play.'"
Maybe the star power of Hunter and Jeter and Griffey is exactly what's needed. Because it can't be simple economics: baseball camps are no more expensive than basketball camps. Football? Even the most suck-ass major league pitcher makes more per year than most football players -- who tend to have shorter careers. And those Dominican kids grow up poor as dirt but still do OK. So yeah, baseball needs financial support but also it needs glamour. Less of The Clear, more Cribs. Maybe.