It was 30 years ago this month when Ken Griffey Jr. made his major-league debut, and almost instantaneously, became the pure, innocent, joyful face of baseball.
There was that unbridled passion for the game, that infectious smile, the backwards cap, showing the world it was cool to be a Major League Baseball player.
Here we are, three decades since Griffey’s broke onto the scene with the Seattle Mariners, with the game now perhaps having more young stars than ever before, but something is missing.
There's a serious dearth of African-American baseball players.
While commemorating Jackie Robinson's 100th birthday this year, MLB has an African-American population of only 7.7% this season. There are 68 African-American players among the total of 882 players on opening-day rosters, injured lists and restricted lists, according to research by USA TODAY Sports.
There are a staggering 11 teams that don’t have more than a single African-American player on their 25-man roster, including three teams that don’t one. There are three African-American players on active rosters in the entire National League West.
There were twice as many African-American players in baseball when Griffey broke into the major leagues. There were 15 African-American players alone on the 1989 All-Star team – which didn’t include Griffey – including six who were later inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with All-Star MVP Bo Jackson, the famed two-sport athlete. There were just seven African-Americans in last year’s All-Star Game.