I started this blog series with the notion that baseball is America’s Pastime not because of the quality of play on the field or the popularity of the sport (both in decline), but because of the politics and economics that drive Major League Baseball and how eerily similar they are to the politics and economics of our country. One of the most controversial issues in our economic recovery is the outsourcing of knowledge worker jobs by technology companies. The news abounds with stories everyday like this one or this one. Baseball has not only been outsourcing for years, but has been investing in training academies in Latin America which have exacerbated the opportunity gap for Latino and African American prospects in our country. This is now being replicated in tech and the outcomes will be devastating.
In 2010, 28% of players on opening day rosters were born from outside of the United States. The Dominican Republic leads with 86 players in the majors. Venezuela was next with 58, Puerto Rico was third with 21, followed by Japan (14), Canada (13), Mexico (12), Cuba (seven), Panama (five), Australia (four), Taiwan (three) and Colombia, Curacao, South Korea and Nicaragua (two each). I have no problem with foreign born players playing US major league sports, but the Domincan Republic has a vastly disproportionate number of players in the MLB. Why and how does that relate to our American economy?
$18M was spent in 2009 for 30 player development academies in the Dominican Republic operated by major league teams, as well as six in Venezuela and one in Brazil. An additional $3.2M was spent on operating the Dominican Summer League, originally created in 1985 as a development platform for prospects who did not have a visa to travel to the United States. Sounds a lot like the use of H1B visas by technology companies. Silicon Valley is relying on the visa program as opposed to investing in diversifying their workforce from local populations. This is economically short-sighted of these companies and – shameless plug – they should be investing in programs like SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honors) Academy. There is plenty of talent in our country in baseball and in tech, but those who would reap the benefits of homegrown talent (MLB and Silicon Valley in this case) are not investing as much as they can in helping to prepare that talent – particularly talent from diverse populations. Even Mark Zuckerberg’s $100M investment in Newark schools is a budget dust for the multi-billion dollar company. I think they spend much more on talent acquisition and retention than this.
Baseball does also fund their RBI program – Revive Baseball in the Inner City. It’s been going for 21 years, yet the percentages of African American player has been on a sharp decline. 17% of players 20 years ago were black – now it’s just 8.5%. I don’t know of a major foundation in America who would keep funding a program with such dismal results. The next post in the series will examine the history of African-Americans in baseball and how they are losing ground – just as they are losing ground in our schools.
Part III: Brown v. Board of Ed and Jackie Robinson