- Category: News
20 Oct 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
NNPA News Service
While it may be a stretch to say that Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington is single-handedly luring a new mass of African Americans to the nation’s pastime, the conversation is legit.
Washington’s passionate and extremely effective leadership has caught the attention of many within the African-American community who may not have followed baseball in the past, or sports overall, for that matter.
“I have had much respect on how the Rangers have given Mr. Washington the great opportunity within the Rangers organization,” said Rangers’ fan Tamara Johnson. “His back story, along with some of the other players living testimonies, reminds me that your life off the field is just as important as your life on the field.”
Such statistics are not necessarily kept, but the naked eye indicates that more African-American families were present at Rangers home games this year.
And there is more. Witness Tafuta Bakai, a J.C. Penney’s network analyst, who was proudly sporting his Texas Rangers garb while helping organize an Urban League Young Professional business conference at his headquarters. He credits Washington.
“I’ve been hearing more brothers calling all the sports radio show about the state of baseball. This organization (Rangers) has ascended to this level because of what Ron Washington has brought to this city,” Bakai said. “It has been tremendous.”
Bakai spoke about a close friend who’s sending his six-year old son to a camp with D-Bat, a nationwide baseball and softball training facility.
“Ron Washington is the reason why he’s going to send his son to the camp,” Bakai said. “He’s made an impact not only in the African American community but now it’s crossed racial lines.”
Major League Baseball officials are eager for a turnaround in African-American interest in the game. According to Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (at the University of Central Florida), the percentage of African-American baseball players in the major leagues dipped to 8.5 percent this year, down from 9.1 percent in 2010 and less than half than the 19 percent in 1995.
The percentage of Latino players also dropped slightly, but held at a relatively healthy 27 percent.
“This has been a concern of Major League Baseball and leaders in the African-American community,” Lapchick said. “However, the 38.3 percent of players who are people of color also make the playing fields look more like America with its large Latino population.”
Outside of helping develop the Rangers into a baseball powerhouse, Washington is doing other things to bring more young African-American youths into baseball. He can be seen at community outlets such as a Boys and Girls Club in southern Dallas teaching little leaguers and teenagers the fundamentals of the game.
In August, Washington returned to his hometown of New Orleans for the dedication of a new urban baseball academy in Pontchartrain Park. It’s the first urban academy at a city that does not have a major league baseball team. The league plans to build an Urban Youth Academy on the grounds of the Hurricane Katrina-destroyed Wesley Barrow Stadium.
And this past May, Washington joined Sharon Robinson, daughter of legendary trailblazer Jackie Robinson, to honor one of the winners of a national essay contest organized by Sharon Robinson through the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
(Special to the NNPA from The Dallas Weekly)