Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson said the shortage of black players in MLB today is "definitely a big problem."
According to the Huffington Post, 19% of MLB players in 1986 were African American, a number that is down to 7.8% in 2015.
"We consider baseball the American pastime," said Granderson. "And if it's going to be the American pastime, obviously the African American population is at 13%. So the numbers aren't matching up accordingly.
"The big thing is, there's other interests that kids are involved in, and we've just got to continue to keep baseball as one of those interests that kids want to play."
Granderson said new league commissioner Rob Manfred has said getting baseball "back into the inner cities" and amongst the youth in general is "going to be at the top of our podium in terms of what's important and what we need to do in baseball."
In 2013, former MLB commissioner Bud Selig created a task force on diversity to address the declining number of African Americans playing baseball. Since 1989, MLB has had a youth program called "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities" that aims to give kids in underserved areas the chance to play baseball or softball.
"You go through all the major cities in America here, you have some heavily dominated areas that are in inner cities where you can go ahead and pull a lot of kids just to get a chance to play," said Granderson. "Not to play in the major leagues, but just to play this fun game. Learn leadership, teamwork, discipline, hard work and showing with all those things if you put your mind to it, it can definitely pay off."
- Molly Geary