This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.
At a recent Friday night at the Minnesota Twins ballpark, a Black father and his son attended their first ball game of the summer.
The two, a rare sight at Twins games, easily stood out as they sat in the second deck behind home plate on Father’s Day weekend’s opening night. It was Byron Buxton Bobblehead night, but the team’s only Black player wasn’t on the field because he was injured.
“It was all pretty good,” young Jaren Powell afterwards told the Only One. The budding T-ball star said that he had hoped to snag a foul ball hit his way but never got the opportunity. Carefully choosing his words in his first interview, Jaren added that the things he took away after watching the home team lose 8-1 include “how you need to swing [the bat] and how you need to hit, and how to be an outfielder.”
Tommie Powell pointed out that his son just started T-ball, with hopes of playing baseball someday. “In my inner-city where I grew up, all the Black guys played baseball, football and basketball,” the father recalled. He relocated here 13 years ago and soon realized baseball isn’t as popular a summertime activity among Blacks as it was and is in his native Florida.
“You don’t see brothers at all having any interest in playing baseball,” Tommie noted.
Tommie proudly reported that the father-son experience, an American tradition, was a success in his view. “We want to get out and see some baseball.”
“My father wasn’t able to take me to all the games when I was growing up,” Tommie recalled. Now as a father, “I got that opportunity and want to take that opportunity” to bring his son to the ballpark.
“We’d like to get to more live games and spend more time together,” he said. Jalen concurred.
WNBA Awards show?
Los Angeles’ Candace Parker was among the red carpet participants at the recent made-for-TV NBA Awards show on TNT.
“It was a lot of fun,” Parker told the MSR during last Wednesday’s WNBA media call. Asked if she would like something similar for the WNBA, she quickly thumbed it down.
“I like the individuality of it,” Parker explained. “I like the Sixth [Woman] of the Year having their own day, the MVP getting their special day. You don’t get that” if a similar awards program were to be held in her league, she said.
Salary gap at issue
With NBA free agency now in full swing, it should again be noted that the year-round-playing WNBA players still get far less in salaries than their NBA counterparts.
The current WNBA veteran’s maximum salary ranges from $113,500 to $121,500. In comparison, an NBA player with no experience makes a minimum $543,471.
During last year’s Finals, LA Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike told ESPN that she and the W players deserve a bigger cut of revenues. Ogwumike said that better salaries, including a 50 percent share of revenue, is something to shoot for when the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA) talks come up.
The WNBA CBA runs through 2021, but both sides can opt out in 2019.
“When I retire, I want to leave the league better than when I entered it,” Ogwumike, the WNBA players union president, told the MSR last week. “We’ve made a lot of headway, but we have a long way to go.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.