Rockies' Desmond: Baseball is failing minorities

by 24USATVJune 30, 2020, 5 p.m. 19
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Jeff Passan explains the effect that MLB players opting out of the season will have on the league and why it raises concerns. (0:52)

Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond, who is opting out of playing this season, says baseball is "failing" in helping minorities, especially children, to play and advance in the sport.

In a series of Instagram posts Monday, Desmond said he has been sharing more of his thoughts and experiences as a biracial man since George Floyd's death on May 25 in Minnesota. Floyd, a Black man, died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than seven minutes.

Desmond said his mind started racing during a recent visit to the Sarasota baseball fields that he played on as a kid. He wrote about how they looked run-down and neglected and how important youth baseball was for him growing up.

"Why can't we support teaching the game to all kids -- but especially those in underprivileged communities?'' Desmond wrote. "Why aren't accessible, affordable youth sports viewed as an essential opportunity to affect kids' development, as opposed to money-making propositions and recruiting chances? It's hard to wrap your head around it.''

Desmond said he wants to help Sarasota Youth Baseball get back on track. "It's what I can do, in the scheme of so much,'' he wrote. "So, I am.''

Desmond wrote about the role baseball can play in bettering children's lives, referencing the words of former Sarasota Little League coach Dick Lee, who died in 2011.

"If what Dick Lee knew to be true remains so -- that baseball is about passing on what we've learned to those who come after us in hopes of bettering the future of others -- then it seems to me that America's pastime is failing to do what it could, just like the country," Desmond wrote.

Desmond, 34, then turned to the problems he sees in Major League Baseball.

"Think about it: right now in baseball we've got a labor war. We've got rampant individualism on the field. In clubhouses we've got racist, sexist, homophobic jokes or flat-out problems. We've got cheating. We've got a minority issue from the top down. One African American GM. Two African American managers. Less than 8% Black players. No Black majority team owners.

"Perhaps most disheartening of all is a puzzling lack of focus on understanding how to change those numbers. A lack of focus on making baseball accessible and possible for all kids, not just those who are privileged enough to afford it.

"If baseball is America's pastime, maybe it's never been a more fitting one than now," Desmond said.

Desmond concluded by explaining why he is opting out of playing this season.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking," he wrote.

"With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what's going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now,'' Desmond wrote. "Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys' questions about Coronavirus and Civil Rights and life. Home to be their Dad.''

Desmond has played 11 seasons, the past three with the Rockies. He batted .255 with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs in 140 games in 2019.

Desmond had been due $5,555,556 for the prorated share of his $15 million salary, part of a five-year, $70 million contract, according to The Associated Press. He is owed $8 million next year, and his deal includes a $15 million team option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout.

Earlier Monday, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake and Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross announced that they are opting out of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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