Latinos and College Baseball

A while back I examined the decline of African-Americans playing major-league baseball. James Wagner looks at the racial composition of Division I college baseball and notices a different trend.

College players in the three main divisions are 86% white, according to the most-recent NCAA figures. That’s a big difference from Major League Baseball, where one study puts the number at less than 60%. The most striking difference is in the number of Latinos on the field: They made up about 29% of all major leaguers in 2007 but only 5% of players in college.

While the percentage of Latino players has more than doubled in professional baseball since 1990, accounting for top stars such as Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, the percentage of minorities in the college game remains extremely low. That’s especially true for Latinos, for whom college ball’s failure to keep pace with the diversity of the major leagues is most striking. And that’s embarrassing to some….

Minority players clearly aren’t being excluded from major-league stardom and wealth. But because college baseball has had trouble attracting nonwhite talent, minority prospects aren’t enjoying the benefits of a recent shift in the game that puts a premium on college players. Last year, according to data provided by Major League Baseball, 55% of the players picked in baseball’s amateur draft came from four-year institutions, up from 38% in 1998. The number of college players taken in the first four rounds, where teams pay the highest bonuses, has increased by 20% over the past 10 years. The average signing bonus through the first four rounds last year was $790,000.

At the center of the issue is a perennial choice facing young baseball prospects: College seems to afford less opportunity than the fast cash they can get signing with a pro team….

Many forces beyond the easy cash compound this discrepancy. They include challenges in recruiting, a college draft that, unlike the National Basketball Association’s, doesn’t include prospects from abroad, and baseball scholarships that are fewer and less comprehensive than football and basketball scholarships.

Coaches say it is expensive for colleges in the NCAA’s Division I to recruit overseas, even in Latin America. And foreign players often lack the appropriate transcripts, grades and test scores.

I am not concerned about the lack of foreign Latinos in college baseball. There is a very simple explanation that has nothing to do with racism or financial incentives: the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). How can these kids go to college in the US if they don’t even speak English?

Thanks to Shyster for the pointer.

5 Responses “Latinos and College Baseball”

  1. Cliff says:

    The shift to college talent is driven by lots of things. I won’t go into those now, but the reasons that such shift affects minority representtion.

    Division 1 schools typically have enough scholarships under the rules for a more or less “full” roster. Football: 85. Basketball: 15. However, bseball is limited to (I believe) 18 and 6 of those can be split into half scholarships. So, half of the normal roster does not even have the basic scholarship (which leaves nothing for “spending money” or having a car or whatever).

    This is why the state schools that have programs similar to the Hope scholarship have improved so much in baseball over the last 10 to 15 years. Hope gets tuition out of the way and thus allows better walk ons and allows a half scholarship to almost equal a whole scholarship.

    BUT, with minority students being slightly less likely to have the Hope standards and slightly less likely to be able to afford college without scholarships, the half scholarship thing hinders participation.

    Probably if D 1 had 22 or so scholarships, you would see a couple of points of increase in college baseball participation in USA grown Latinos and also in USA grown players of African heritage. That would only cost a state school about $50,000 or so a year, private about $150,000. Maybe tournament revenue could be divided and allocated differently to achieve this.

  2. Aaron says:

    Um…. Is this completely ignoring that the rise of Latin players in Baseball coincides with an increase in scouting and signing in Latin America. These players are not subject to the Rule4 draft and thus wouldn’t show up in the college draft statistics at all but do show up in the general diversity of Major League Baseball.

  3. Dorasaga says:

    Hi, JC,

    I got your book a while ago.

    Had you heard about “buscones”? The hawks who keep young Latino talents away from scouts and education by making kids (and their family) stay the whole time in local baseball institutions and believe that they can sign big and make money by playing baseball?

    There seems to be a whole system that works with them, so I don’t blame the Latinos for not learning English.

  4. John says:

    Scholarships are approximately 12 per team, which is a large detriment here. Also, recruiting budgets are usually quite small, so if you look at the makeup of most of the college teams you will see a small radius of where the players come from unless they were highly touted. Its more financially feasible to go to a junior college or D2/3 school if you aren’t a top prospect, which isn’t represented in the sample and is probably the group of minorities that we are talking about anyway (since a top prospect would sign anyway). Lastly, many of the affluent high school prospects (ie white for this argument) are many times considered unsignable coming out of high school unless mid first round money or better would go to them, since they value a college education because their circumstances allow them to.

  5. Rick says:

    D1 colleges have a total of 11.7 scholarships per year to offer. D2 schools have 9. NAIA schools have 12. You have to be very, very good to get a full ride. A lot of baseball players fund their education with academic scholarships. Figure that most teams have 25 players. You do the math. The Hope scholarship is the best thing that’s happened to college baseball in Georgia.