NCAA: Where are you on baseball diversity?

by Greg

Bill Gates laughingly tells the story that he's not too popular at cocktail parties when he insists on talking about diarrhea. Turns out diarrhea kills many kids in the developing world, and his foundation is focused on trying to stop that. Why avoid an important topic, even if it's uncomfortable (no pun intended)?

Similarly, I am not too popular on my own blog when I talk about our abysmal record of attracting and retaining black baseball players. Seven years ago I wrote about the 'crisis' for CodBall, and raised it again a few years ago on a trip to the Dominican Republic, whose rising numbers in the MLB are helping to offset the sadly diminishing number of African American players in this country.

The New York Times weighs in again this week with an article about a new MLB report on the sobering number of African American players in the Big Leagues.

According to the league, only 8.3 percent of players on 2014 opening day rosters identified themselves as African-American or black. The highest percentage of African-Americans in the majors, according to research by Mark Armour of the Society of American Baseball Research, was 19 percent in 1986.

The league is reported to be focusing on three remedies: expanding Major League Baseball’s existing urban leagues and academies; improving and modernizing coaching; and more aggressively marketing players. 

While the story acknowledges there are other ideas on the table, I don't understand why Major League Baseball would not prioritize a college baseball pipeline. We already know that players overall in this country can drive up their draft value by succeeding at the college level.  Why not partner with the NCAA to create expanded college opportunities for African American players? The NCAA should insist on this as a major priority with or without the MLB.

What might this look like? It's not as simple as offering scholarships, although that would help. The NCAA and MLB should partner with the United Negro College Fund, historically black colleges and universities, the College Board, top charter schools like KIPP and get serious about building this pipeline. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the head of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, go on national news programs to talk about college basketball and football issues. Why not baseball?

The Cape League, the West Coast League and other summer collegiate leagues should be part of this pipeline. Don't we al want to see more Mo Vaughns, Albert Belles and Frank Thomases playing on elite summer diamonds?

Jim Collins, in his excellent book about the Cape League, wrote, that "the players in the Cape Cod League reflected not professional but college baseball." Chatham, the team he chronicled, didn't carry a single black or Latino player in 2002. It had just 14 black players dating back to 1990.

Last night at the Mariners and A's game I noticed that my favorite vendor, an African American man originally from South Shore High School in Brooklyn, had brought his family to the game while he worked. Dropping off some food for them and darting back to work, he told me that he had played baseball on his high school team. South Shore is now closed and he's found a better life in the Seattle area. He said his three year old lives and breathes baseball, which was apparent on Felix Hernandez appreciation night.

Let's hope the NCAA and MLB figure out how to keep youngsters like him interested in baseball and that we see them in summer college leagues and in increasing numbers on MLB fields.



A Tribute to Mike Roberts

by Andrew Wirtanen in

 Cotuit Kettleer's Head Coach Mike Roberts won his 2nd Cape Cod Baseball League Championship this past summer. Roberts has now coached in the league 12 years (including two years with Wareham in 1984 and 2000). His teams have made the playoffs 75% of the time, which is a testament to Roberts' aggressive backyard baseball style. On July 4th, WVS Global posted a short-and-sweet interview with Roberts - with one of the fluffiest microphones I've ever seen. At 2:45 in the interview, Roberts tells a funny story about taking his team to an elementary school field to work on baserunning.

Today (August 31, 2013), WickedLocal posted a story about Roberts' busy life once the Cape League season ends. After the Kettleers won the championship, Coach Roberts drove down to Baltimore to watch his son Brian Roberts play a few games for the Orioles. Then, Coach Roberts continued the trip down to his home in North Carolina. During the Cape League off-season, Roberts: (1) runs a series of baserunning clinics across the country, (2 and 3) is a consultant at two companies, (4) is head of the sports management program at Asbury University (Lexington, KY), and (5) is an author about to publish his second book called "Baserunning" (Pre-order on Amazon). Make sure to go to WickedLocal to read the full story.

"Cape Hope" Documentary Series

by Andrew Wirtanen in

There's a new documentary series about the Cape League called "Cape Hope". Right Field Fog has an interview with the project's creator, Keith Chirgwin. The series follows four Cape Leaguers during the 2012 season: Mike Montville, Tyler Horan, Dace Kime and Kurt Schluter. Chirgwin hopes to find a network to air the first season, and also renew it follow-up seasons.

For the latest on "Cape Hope", follow @capehopeseries and like it on Facebook at

Spotlight on Cotuit's Mike Ford (Princeton)

by Andrew Wirtanen in

Utility Infielder and Pitcher Mike Ford (Princeton) did everything he could to set himself up to be signed after the spring season. Unfortunately, his name was not called in the draft, despite the fact he won both Player and Pitcher of the Year awards in the Ivy League. So, Mike is back on the Cape again this summer with Cotuit with the goal of impressing scouts. The Cape Cod Times released a spotlight video to tell his story: 

Joe Jackson (Bourne, 2012) Debuts for Spokane Indians

by Andrew Wirtanen in

At this time last year, Joe Jackson's (Bourne, 2012; Citadel) name was causing some conversations at Doran Park in Bourne. Now the great-great-great nephew of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is working his way up the Texas Rangers farm system. According to, Jackson broke the thumb on his throwing hand on in his first day in a Spokane uniform. Fortunately, he is back in the lineup and batted 2 for 3 tonight (July 16). While Joe Jackson was in Bourne, WBUR in Boston put together a great five-minute piece on the family connection to "Shoeless". You can also watch a five minute interview with 2012 Bourne Lead Broadcaster Nolan Alexander:

Also, CapeLeagueBaseball on YouTube assembled some footage of Jackson playing for Bourne last year:

Harwich 7 - Orleans 2; Notes

by Dave B. in

A 5-run eighth inning powered Harwich to a 7-2 win over Orleans yesterday at Eldredge Park.  Ryan Lindemuth (William & Mary) homered and drove in 3 runs to pace the Mariners offense. Harwich starter Nick Howard (Virginia), making his first appearance on the hill this summer, pitched 5.2 innings, allowed 6 hits, and did not issue a walk. Howard struck out 8. Michael Costello (Radford) earned the win after relieving Howard in the sixth. Costello retired 10 straight batters after walking the first batter he faced. Harwich's Aaron Barbosa (Northeastern) went 3-for-5 in the game and now leads the league with a .424 avg. Mark Zagunis and Brendon Hayden, teammates at Virginia Tech, each went 2 for 4 and drove in a run for the Mariners.

Josh Sborz (Virginia) pitched well for Orleans, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk in 5 innings of work. Orleans got 2 shutout innings of relief from Vanderbilt lefty Jared Miller and the game moved to the eighth, tied at 2. Jeremy Rhoades (Illinois State) did not fare well after taking over for Miller to start the eighth. Rhoades gave up 4 hits and a walk while recording just one out as Harwich scored 5 times to put the game out of reach.

Greg Allen (San Diego St.) had two hits and drove in a run, and Duke's Chris Marconcini had the other RBI for the Firebirds.

With their sixth win in 7 games, Harwich moves to 8-4 and sits in first place in the East, one point ahead of Chatham. The Mariners host the Anglers tonight. Orleans falls to 6-6 and travels to Yarmouth-Dennis this evening.

NOTES:  Harwich released Costello a few hours after his stellar relief outing.

After their 4-3 win over Bourne on Tuesday, West Division leader Hyannis is now 6-0 in one-run games.

Falmouth is the only team in the league that has not been shutout.

Florida State's Demetrius  Stewart hit a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning for Y-D as the Red Sox tied Chatham, 5-5, on Tuesday. Yesterday, Stewart received an invitation to participate in the College Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha on July 3. The event will be televised on ESPN on July 4 at 8 p.m. Clemson's Garrett Boulware and Virginia's Kenny Towns have also been announced as participants in this event. Over the next few days, there will be 5 more players picked to go to Omaha. Expect a couple of them to be players who are presently playing in the CCBL.

Here's a fun fact with a Cape League tie-in....  On May 19, 2008, Minnesota hosted Texas. With the score tied at 6-6 in the 10th inning, the Twins changed their lineup by moving DH Brendan Harris to the infield. That move cost the Twins the use of the DH spot for the rest of the game. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire was forced to send pitcher Bobby Korecky up to bat in the 11th inning. Korecky got a hit, then went out a and pitched a scoreless 12th inning and got credit for the win when the Twins scored in the home half of that inning, winning the game, 7-6. Korecky became the first Twins pitcher to get a hit in an American League game in the 25 years since the implementation of the DH rule in 1973. Korecky pitched for Chatham in 2000 and Yarmouth-Dennis in 2001.