Historically, a love of baseball is passed down from generation to generation. But in many communities, the generational chain to baseball has been broken, and playing the game as a primary sports option has long passed.
According to an ESPN report, since 1986 the percentage of African Americans in professional baseball dropped more than half, from 19 percent to 8.5. The trend is so dire that Major League Baseballand the Los Angeles Dodgers have invested in programs such as Play Ball and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), aimed at increasing participation in the sport among boys and girls of color with a keen eye on African American participation.
“Since 1995, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation has invested more than $25 million in programs and grants to nonprofits because we firmly believe that a child’s ZIP code should never determine their access to education, health and sports,” says Nichol Whiteman, chief executive officer of LADF.
Standing tall among investors aiming to diversify youth baseball is the LA Rockstars Baseball Club, a grassroots program based in Inglewood that has been leading the charge for equity and opportunities in the sport since 2007. LA Rockstars was founded by former high school and college baseball standout Erikk Aldridge, a longtime fixture in the local baseball community. The primary focus of the program is to train and inspire youth, ages 8-14, from diverse communities around
L.A. County through participation in a well-organized, professionally coached and competitive environment. “Our program is focused on preparing youth players to ultimately become varsity-level starters,” says Aldridge. “More importantly, we go to great lengths to show how fun and cool baseball is by creating special and unique opportunities.”
The LA Rockstars make annual trips across the country to play baseball, including visits to Arizona for MLB spring training and Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The program received a boost in 2015 when the nonprofit Inglewood Baseball Fund (IBF) was established to help further opportunities for kids in the program. Support includes providing college counseling to prospective student-athletes and the construction of a $100,000 training center and batting cage at Inglewood’s Darby Park, scheduled for completion this fall.
It will surely come in handy as the program builds on its success. Since 2007, 16 former players have signed professional baseball contracts and 40 have gone on to play college baseball.
For more information, visit www.rockstarbaseball.com.