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New documentary highlights attempts to increase diversity in MLB

Tanisha Bhat
New documentary highlights attempts to increase diversity in MLB
“New Wave” follows high school baseball players as they navigate the 2022 MLB draft. PHOTO: COURTESY MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

A recently released documentary follows attempts made by Major League Baseball to increase the number of Black athletes on its 30 teams. The two-part documentary — called “New Wave: Baseball’s Next Generation” — follows high school baseball players Termarr Johnson, Jayson Jones, RJ Austin and Justin Crawford as they navigate the 2022 MLB draft.

Qualified high school baseball players are presented with two options upon their graduation — they can either commit to play for a college or straight-away play for a professional team if they are selected. Players who decide to play for college won’t get an opportunity at the draft for another three years. This decision between college and “going pro” is one of the most important decisions of their athletic careers.

The four players attended numerous events ahead of the draft to demonstrate their skills and athletic ability in front of scouts from all major league teams. In the end, Johnson and Crawford are selected to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies, respectively. Austin decided to play at Vanderbilt University, and Jones at the University of Arkansas after he was not selected in the draft’s first round.

The documentary comes after the MLB committed $150 million in 2021 to increase Black representation in baseball — one of the largest investments for diversity ever made by a major sports league in North America. The money was invested in the Players Alliance, a nonprofit organization made up of current and former Black major-league players who are working toward having more Black baseball players at the professional level.

This funding from the MLB will go toward funding leagues, providing players with equipment and increasing the number of Black employees at all levels of professional baseball, and toward scholarships and funding to support baseball in public schools and urban schools.

The documentary was funded by the MLB and made in collaboration with UNINTERRUPTED, the athlete empowerment brand founded by basketball player LeBron James and his long time agent and business partner Maverick Carter. James and Carter are also minority owners in the Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, since 2021. They are the first Black owners in the group’s history.

The percentage of Black players in the MLB today is 6.1% — approximately 58 out of the 945 players across all 30 teams. Additionally, five teams do not have a Black player on their team and nine teams only have one.