Major League Baseball, in its quest to attract more African-American players, experienced a notable sign of encouragement Monday night in the amateur draft.
The 31 first-round picks included seven African-Americans, the most by total and percentage in 20 years, according to research by MLB.
Ten of the 28 first-round picks in 1992 were African-American, or 35.7 percent. The percentage this year was 22.6 percent.
The African-Americans selected in the first round were:
• Outfielder Byron Buxton (No. 2, Twins);
• Shortstop Addison Russell (No. 11, Athletics);
• Outfielder Courtney Hawkins (No. 13, White Sox);
• Outfielder D.J. Davis (No. 17, Blue Jays);
• Right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman (No. 22, Blue Jays)
• Outfielder Victor Roache (No. 28, Brewers), and;
• Outfielder Lewis Brinson (No. 29, Rangers).
No more than five African-Americans had been selected in the first round since 1992. Just one was chosen last year – right-handed pitcher Joseph Ross, who went to the Padres with the 25th pick.
The percentage of African-Americans on Opening Day rosters this season was 8.8 percent, a slight increase from 8.5 percent last season, which was the lowest since 2007, according to Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.
Baseball has attempted to increase its African-American talent pool through its opening of urban youth academies and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.
Since 2006, baseball has either opened or planned urban youth academies in Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, South Florida and Puerto Rico.
Shortstop Carlos Correa, the first overall pick by the Astros in this year’s draft, attended the academy in Puerto Rico – which, unlike the U.S. academies, combines baseball instruction with a rigorous academic curriculum.