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JOHN YOUNG

On The Record

With Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron on the home run list, possibly the most famous mark in sports has become easily the most controversial. Here are some reactions from those around the game.This is a good thing for inner-city kids

August 08, 2007|JOHN YOUNG

The first thing about attracting kids to play baseball: They have to have stars that look like the kids do. For the African American kids, Barry Bonds does. Any time Bonds is in the news -- any time an African American is in the news -- kids will follow it. So I think that's a plus.

The two people I've thought really had an impact on inner-city kids were Ken Griffey Jr. -- but he got hurt so much -- and Dontrelle Willis. The kids all think Dontrelle Willis is cool. I think kids identified more with them than they did with Barry.

The biggest thing about getting kids in the inner city to play baseball is awareness. Any time something happens in baseball that gets on ESPN, or on the front page of the L.A. Times, kids will hear all about it. That's really something positive.

Many inner-city kids don't know there's such a thing as a college scholarship for baseball. Any time an African American does something positive for baseball, the African American community will know about it. And this is probably the most cherished record in sports.

As far as the steroid stuff, we address that really early with the kids. We were doing that really early, from Lyle Alzado's time. We're more concerned with the health aspect. We haven't looked at it as cheating. We've always expressed it as, look what happened to Lyle Alzado.

The problem didn't come from the kids. The problem comes from pros trying to get an edge. I really think the kids don't look at it that way. They're afraid of what it can do, once they get awareness. There's more of a fear factor.

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John Young is the scout who founded Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), a program that provides 100,000 boys and girls each year the opportunity to play baseball and softball and receive tutoring in academics and life skills.

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