Frank Robinson will be one of the members of the new task force. (Patrick Semansky / Associated…)
With this week's release of the Jackie Robinson film "42" putting a spotlight on the current decline of African Americans in Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig on Wednesday appointed a task force to study how to increase diversity within the sport.
Four of the 30 major-league clubs -- including the World Series champion San Francisco Giants -- opened the season without an African American on their roster, according to USA Today, which first reported the establishment of the task force.
The issue is not new. Of the players on opening-day rosters, about 8.5% were African American, according to MLB. That figure has ranged from 8.2% to 10.2% over the last decade -- down from 19% in 1995, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.
As African Americans flocked to football and basketball, and as MLB clubs drew criticism for developing players in Latin America while withdrawing from inner cities in the United States, the league established the Urban Youth Academy program. The first of seven such academies opened in Compton in 2006. The league also took over the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program founded in Los Angeles in 1989 by scout John Young.
According to MLB, the seven African Americans selected in the first round of last year's draft were the most since 1992.
Dennis Gilbert, the former agent who paid for the construction of a first-class baseball field at Los Angeles Southwest College, is one of 18 people appointed to the task force.
The task force, chaired by Detroit Tigers President Dave Dombrowski, also includes Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall, former Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng and former Angels catcher Darrell Miller, who now serves as MLB vice president for youth and facility development.
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