As Jackie Robinson Day approaches, MLB has not only outfitted its players to honor his legacy but is walking the talk as well.
MLB has given fans an advanced look at the caps, socks and uniforms that its players will wear on Sunday, April 15 to honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson, but MLB’s commitment to continuing the work Robinson began is in more than just apparel that will be auctioned off after the games.
According to MLB, the representation of African-American players on Opening Day 2018 rosters was at its highest since 2012. The current 8.4 percent is an increase on last season’s 7.7 percent and 8.27 percent in 2016 and 2015.
MLB attributes the increase to its efforts to make the game accessible to minority youth, but there is still work to do. There seems to be a disconnect in the pipeline to the majors from efforts for youth like the Kansas City Royals’ Urban Youth Academy and African-American players at the highest levels of NCAA baseball. In 2008, only 4.5 percent of NCAA baseball players were identified as African-American.
For American MLB draft prospects, college baseball is still one of the prominent proving grounds, and if the percentage of African-Americans in MLB is going to rise beyond 8.4 percent, the representation among those teams vying for spots in the College World Series in Omaha needs to grow as well.
One of the ways to increase interest in baseball is making the game appealing on several fronts, including style. The 2018 Jackie Robinson Day player apparel should help in that regard, starting with special Stance on-field socks that all players will don.
This year, the players’ New Era caps and Majestic uniforms will feature special patches as well, like these which the Kansas City Royals will wear when they take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to commemorate the 71st anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier.
Whether through game day apparel or grassroots organization, MLB is working to increase the number of African-American players among its ranks. If successful, the legacy of Jackie Robinson will be honored.