© Charlie Neibergall / ASSOCIATED PRESS
African-American participation in baseball has declined over the decades, but Derek Jeter believes the kids are at least partly to blame.
Sitting beside fellow Hall of Fame electee Larry Walker at their first press conference since being elected to the Hall of Fame, Jeter shared one reason for the rapid decline in black participation across the league since his 1995 arrival.
“I think, you know, the younger generation — and let me finish before anyone judges me,” Jeter remarked. “I think you’re into instant gratification.”
The Hall of Fame Yankees shortstop entered a league where approximately 16.1% of the league identified as African American, per the Society of Baseball Research. By 2014, Jeter’s final season, it was down to 6.7%.
Jeter, who is black, elaborated on the impatience he sees among kids these days. He juxtaposed the path to the NFL and NBA — both leagues’ respective rosters float at or above 70% black — with MLB, noting that the route to playing in their big leagues was much faster.
“If you see a player playing college basketball, the next year they’re in the NBA.” Jeter explained.
“You see someone playing college baseball they disappear for three years” referring to the arduous process of minor league baseball. “So, I think kids nowadays, they want to go towards, not the easier route, but the fastest route.”
Jeter’s probably right. Athletes want to test their skills at the highest level as soon as possible. But what he didn’t mention was why elite athletes from underprivileged backgrounds — black families, in particular, hold less than seven cents on the dollar compared to white households — might want an instantly gratifying paycheck.
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