Over the years, we’ve written on various issues involving diversity in baseball, whether it’s on the field, on the coaching staffs, in the front office, or in the broadcast booth. To Major League Baseball’s credit, it has made very material efforts towards changing that for the better. As it pertains to on-air talent, however, baseball broadcast booths remain largely white and male.
Angels TV broadcaster Victor Rojas, whose father Cookie is a former major leaguer and from Cuba, wrote a must-read blog about the subject of diversity in baseball broadcasting. Rojas notes that there are only a handful of minorities doing play-by-play, whether on radio or on TV, listing himself along with Joe Angel (Orioles radio), Robert Ford (Astros radio), Buck Martinez (Blue Jays TV), and Dave Sims (Mariners TV).
Rojas goes on to write, “I can see where a young minority fan sitting at home with thoughts of one day becoming the next Jaime Jarrín or Felo Ramírez on English language broadcasts could be discouraged because of the lack of minorities staring back at them through the television.”
In my own discussions with other white people about this, particularly those of a conservative political bent, making workplaces more diverse doesn’t strike them as a moral imperative. Diversity, at the very least, should strike everybody from an economic standpoint. The young minority fan Rojas spoke of is not likely to become a lifelong, money-spending fan of Major League Baseball if he can’t get emotionally invested in the sport, which is helped by being able to identify with its participants — the players, the coaches, the broadcasters. They will go where they are represented: in other traditional sports, in esports, and in other forms of media.
According to SportsBusiness Journal, a recent study of Nielsen TV viewership data found that Major League Baseball’s audience is the oldest among the four major sports with an average age of 57 years. 83 perecent of those who watch baseball on TV are white. The NFL’s average viewer is 50 followed by hockey (49) and basketball (42). The Atlantic found several years ago that MLB’s audience is the most male-dominant at 70 percent. We know, generally, who’s watching baseball (older white men) and we know who’s not watching baseball (everybody else). While Major League Baseball is quite healthy right now, setting revenue records year after year, it needs diversity up and down the ranks in order to continue having a bright future. Eventually those older white men will die. Their eyeballs and their money will need to be replaced.
Rojas says, “There are endless numbers of ways to be a part of our business and I think we’re failing in showing what those possibilities may be. If we can somehow create a larger pool of talented individuals who want to pursue a career in our industry, then we’ll have that many more for the front offices of teams and television networks to consider when it comes time to hiring.”
Humans are, by nature, very tribal. This is why we’ve had to make repeated, concerted efforts to force our society to diversify. White people are more likely to befriend white people. When white people attain positions of power, they are likely to fill other positions of power with their friends, who are very likely to be white. Replace “white” with other demographics with which we create hierarchies, such as gender, and it remains just as true. If we diversify baseball, even starting at the ground floor, the diversity will eventually make its way up the ladder. We should strive for quicker, greater change, but progress in the U.S. has typically come in bite-sized chunks.