Hudson wants to inspire black youth
Tour will send Major Leaguers to speak about baseball
LOS ANGELES -- Sixty-two years after Jackie Robinson became the first African-American in the Major Leagues, Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson said his race still is underrepresented on the field. And he'd like to do something about it.
"I wish we could get African-Americans out here to play baseball," Hudson said before participating in Wednesday's sport-wide tribute to the anniversary of Robinson breaking the racial barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
To make that a reality, Hudson announced his "Around the Mound Tour," created to get more African-American youth interested in the sport of baseball. Hudson has recruited fellow Major Leaguers Jimmy Rollins, Torii Hunter, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Pierre, Mike Cameron and Justin Upton to support his efforts. They will speak at schools and to Little Leagues in urban areas.
According to a recent study, the percentage of black players in the Major Leagues increased last year for the first time since the 1995 season. In 2008, black players in MLB increased to 10.2 percent after reaching an all-time low of 8.2 percent the previous season, according to a report by The Associated Press. The study was done by Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.
Hudson said he wasn't sure why African-American representation is higher in some sports than others, although he indicated that cultural differences play a role.
"Go to an NBA game and it's all hip-hop music," he said. "Major League games, you're not hearing hip-hop between innings. We've got to find a way to draw. We all know African-Americans play baseball. We do our thing in all sports.
"There are a lot of powerful black people in America. They watch baseball. Spike Lee. In the playoffs, you see Puff Daddy, Jay-Z there. Mary J. Blige. Even Denzell Washington. It'll be a hard process. I hope in years to come we can persuade them a little bit."
Hudson questioned why there were so few African-American players when he watched the College World Series.
"That's just the way it is," he said. "You turn on college basketball, it's like all 10 players on the court are African-American. You might see one or two Caucasians."
Hudson also questioned the lack of national commercials featuring African-American baseball players, as compared to the number featuring African-American basketball players like LeBron James or Kevin Garnett.
"You might see Derek Jeter once in a while," he said. "It'll be a long process."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.