Let's honor Jackie Robinson's anniversary instead of wallowing about the lack of blacks in baseball.

Relax already. Enjoy the historic day. Stop crying catastrophe. There is no crisis with blacks in baseball. What there is however is a preference away from baseball, but that’s a whole other issue.

First, let’s deal with those crying crisis in America’s pastime.

To hear it from Jimmie Rollins, Carl Crawford and C.C. Sabathia, you’d almost think that the clocks had been rolled back on integration 60 years from the day that a towering, athletic black first baseman took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. You’d think that Major League Baseball would soon return to the game with the shameful color curtain that excluded some of the best talent in Baseball for six decades. Alas, that is not the case.

Appearing on ESPN this week, the three major leaguers expressed frustration that their were not enough blacks in baseball. Sabathia, a two-time All-Star selection with the Cleveland Indians, went as far as to imply that as one of the only blacks on his team he felt lonely. Shortstop Rollins said he felt that he had to be a role model to black boys who may some day want to play in the hole the way he has in six seasons with the Phillies. Rollins wants to be what Ozzie Smith and Royce Clayton were to him growing up. Crawford said he felt the situation was frustrating.

Although no player said Major League Baseball’s existence, or their livelihoods for that matter, were at stake each sounded a chord or alarm and discontent that seemed to sour a great anniversary in baseball.

The three young players, each likely in the prime of his career, decried the lack of black children interested in baseball.

What is admirable about Sabathia in particular, is that he has deigned to do something about what he sees as a problem, sponsoring a Little League team in his home city in Vallejo, California.

Other black ballplayers, including Milton Bradley of the Oakland Athletics have donated their money and time to the issue to help create a greater opportunities for blacks interested in the sport. Bradley said a generous Little League coach provided him the opportunity to play during an impoverished childhood.

That’s great and all, but is there really a problem with black children choosing to devote their time to other sports such as basketball and football? Unless you don’t like contact sports or squeaking shoes, to object to a black child playing those sports hardly seems reasonable. After all, don’t we want sports in society to be about recreation, exploration and growth? Or do we want to force these things on children, diminishing the curiosity and appeal that they offer?

Steve Phillips, an analyst with ESPN and former general manager of the New York Mets said he thought Major League Baseball teams should sponsor say, two ballfields in the areas surrounding their city to attract inner city, and presumably black youths to the game.

This sounds all well and good, but it doesn’t answer the question of why a child should feel more drawn to emulate Derek Jeter than Carmelo Anthony or LaDanian Tomlinson. It could be that just as many white kids have eschewed basketball for other sports black youth enjoy that game and football. Both sports have grown in black participation to the point where not only is the NBA nearly all black, but whites are in the minority in the NFL. Both sports have a hip-hop appeal that is more attractive to blacks. There’s nothing wrong with that. So why should black kids be ashamed of turning away from baseball.

I will admit that having just received a friend’s 1990 Upper Deck baseball card set, it’s strange to think of how fewer American blacks are playing the sport–this says nothing about those who look just like them but come from Latin America and have greatly influenced the game. At the same time, our nation is great because it values preference, choice and expression. It’s no crime that a 12-year-old black kid from Newark may be more interested in Richard Jefferson and the Nets than how Barry Bonds, Derek Lee, Dontrelle Willis or any other black ballplayers are doing.

Black major leaguers such as Derek Lee, Cliff Floyd and Tony Clark–all among the tallest in the game–were themselves standout basketball players. Clark told the Sacramento Bee that he would have preferred to have played basketball himself were it not for a back injury in college. They are not alone in being successful ballplayers who have talents that cross into other sports. Jackie Robinson himself was an outstanding football, basketball and track and field star. White ballplayers too have shown proficiencies in other sports; Tom Glavine with hockey, Mark Hendrickson in basketball and Mike Hampton in football.

So let’s let kids be kids and enjoy the day. It could be some day that the hip hop trend towards the wood court and the gridiron fade away like an old played out beat. But until then kids will be kids. Enjoy a monumental day. Let kids be kids.

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