A couple of weeks ago, the Minnesota Twins held several events specifically for youth, and especially for Black youth.
An estimated 200 boys and girls from the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota participated in a “Twins Youth Takeover” game in Bloomington. There was also a day-long leadership academy for 100 high school students at the Twins ballpark, evenly split between baseball and softball players. A “Future Mentorship” clinic was held at Minneapolis Henry High School for 20 Black high school baseball and softball players from Henry and Minneapolis North.
The purpose of the events was to get more Blacks in baseball, both on and off the field. Current Twins officials such as Third Base Coach Tommy Watkins, Twins President Dave St. Peter and other members of the team participated.
“Education has always been a primary community commitment for the Minnesota Twins,” declared Kristin Rortvedt, the team’s senior director of community engagement and Twins Community Fund executive director. “It absolutely is very intentional for us to try to connect groups of kids who maybe aren’t exposed to baseball as much as other communities,” she told the MSR. “So, we’re excited to be able to offer all these different kinds of events for kids.”
Former and current Major League Baseball players, Twins front office staff and others met with Black youth for the Future Mentorship clinic, an initiative of The Players Alliance, a growing group of current and retired African American players and people of color, MLB and Minor League Baseball players, that are dedicated to getting the Black community more involved in baseball. The morning session, on August 19, was dedicated to “guided conversations” covering the pressures of play, and the discomfort of being “the only” person of color on their teams.
Angel McGee, the director of club relations for The Players Alliance, pointed out, “We’re traveling throughout the country to different [MLB] markets to have those open and transparent conversations [with Black youth], so they can see that somebody else has reached the level that they’re aiming to reach,” said McGee, who worked in the Kansas City Royals organization for nine years before joining the Alliance last October.
“With The Players Alliance event,” added Rortvedt, “this commitment really is to help young people of color have access to leadership opportunities and to mentors who want to help them succeed.”
It’s no secret that the numbers of U.S.-born Black players in the majors and minors are low. It’s even lower at the youth, high school, and college levels.
McGee quickly dismissed the well-worn notion that a primary reason for this is that Black fathers don’t play catch with their sons as earlier generations once did. “Our kids are leaving the game,” she stated. “We’re seeing a huge number of dropouts between that 12 and 14 age range.”
Instead, McGee touts the less frequently mentioned fact that playing baseball is an expensive sport. “It’s more feasible to afford equipment for other sports than it is for baseball,” she said. “And if you’ve got a family of boys and girls and siblings that are all playing the game together, that’s gonna be costly.”
Rortvedt said of Blacks and baseball, “We need to get more people that look like themselves playing this game. Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough people to make them feel like they fit here.”
“I believe in the mission of utilizing and creating pathways of equity and access resources for Black youth,” said McGee.