Major League Baseball supports seven Urban Youth Academies, which provide free year-round baseball and softball instruction and education, and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program in an effort to create opportunities for minority youngsters.
Commissioner Bud Selig's latest initiative was announced on Wednesday: the On-Field Diversity Task Force, which is charged with looking at the talent pipeline that impacts the representation and development of minority players and on-field personnel, especially African-Americans. According to the most recent Player Diversity Report, eight percent of the players on 40-man rosters last November were African-American.
"As a social institution, Major League Baseball has an enormous social responsibility to provide equal opportunities for all people, both on and off the field," Selig said. "I am proud of the work we have done thus far with the RBI program and the MLB Urban Youth Academies, but there is more that we must accomplish. We have seen a number of successful efforts with existing MLB task forces, and I believe we have selected the right people to effectively address the many factors associated with diversity in baseball."
The announcement was made five days before the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, a move widely seen as having helped pave the way for integration of the nation as a whole.
The wide-ranging committee includes representatives from ownership, front offices, MLB's Central Office, Minor League Baseball, the MLB Scouting Bureau and college baseball. The 17 members, with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg serving as committee chairman and Tigers president Dave Dombrowski as the task-force chairman, will focus on "the myriad issues influencing on-field diversity at all levels of baseball," according to MLB's announcement.
Indians owner Larry Dolan will be a committee advisor. Tom Brasuell, MLB vice president of community affairs, will represent RBI. Darrell Miller, MLB vice president of youth and facility development, will represent the Urban Youth Academies.
Also serving will be Roger Cador, head baseball coach at Southern University; Dennis Gilbert, special assistant to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf; Derrick Hall, president and chief executive officer of the Diamondbacks; Wendy Lewis, MLB senior VP of diversity and strategic alliances; Jerry Manuel, MLB Network analyst and former Major League manager; Frank Marcos, senior director of the MLB Scouting Bureau; Jonathan Mariner, MLB executive VP and chief financial officer; Bernard Muir, athletic director at Stanford University; Kim Ng, MLB senior VP of baseball operations; union official Tony Clark ; Pat O'Conner, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball; Frank Robinson, Hall of Famer and MLB executive vice president of baseball development; and Ken Williams, executive VP of the White Sox.
The first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft featured the selections of seven African-American players, the highest number by total and percentage (seven of 31 for 22.6 percent) since 1992.
The task force hopes to find ways to make that number even better.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.