Friday, May 17, 2013
Reggie Jackson on baseball and minorities
By Lynn Hoppes
Reggie Jackson and a host of other baseball legends are playing a game in Rochester, N.Y., Saturday.
Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Frank Thomas, Fred McGriff and Ozzie Smith -- all past greats of the game -- will highlight the 2013 Pepsi MAX MLB Field of Dreams Game in Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday.
It's fairly obvious that they are African-Americans, and right now, Major League Baseball is having a problem attracting blacks to play the sport. Only 8.5 percent of the players on the Opening Day rosters this season are black. In fact, MLB announced last month that it was forming a task force to address the issue.
"All these players you'll see Saturday from Rickey to Frank to Ozzie are great players, not just African-American players," Jackson said. "I think these days it's tougher for minorities to play baseball because they are more worried about helping the family with food and shelter."
Jackson, a Hall of Famer who played 21 years in the majors, said that it is important to see the percentage of participation increase.
"You look at the heritage of this game: Jackie Robinson, Henry Aaron and Bob Gibson. And then you realize that it's not just in Little League that you see the numbers down. It's everywhere," Jackson said. "In African-American and Latin American families these days, they are there to help their mom put food on the table. So they don't have the time or money to participate in club leagues. Of course, I'd like to see more in the game."
Playbook had a few minutes to talk with Jackson about baseball and his projects.
You not only want more minorities in baseball, but your Mr. October Foundation for Kids is hoping to boost the numbers of minorities in education.
"It's called STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-related jobs. We have to make minorities aware that if you want to be involved in the workforce, technology is important. Minorities make up more than half the people in the United States but we're not focusing enough on education. You need that for any kind of business you're hoping to get into. We're very behind. We need them to understand if they want to participate in our economy."
You've been pretty busy these days. Are you enjoying your post-baseball life?
"It's relaxing. I'm enjoying myself. I'm a man of faith and I've spent a lot of time developing relationships because of baseball. I still enjoy working with the Yankees and being around the game. I still play with my cars. It's a great hobby. Ferraris. Mercedes. I still have a couple of Rolls-Royces I got when I played with the Yankees."
Maybe I was wrong. You still are part of baseball.
"I love being close to the game. I get to interact with the fans. We're going to have a good time this weekend. I love seeing the old-time ballplayers. We get to share time and talk about the game we love."
You have mellowed over the years. How do you think you would have done if social media were prominent during the height of your fame?
"I would have probably done my best like Derek Jeter or Mariano Riviera to avoid it. As I've gotten older, I've learned how to channel things better. Those guys are tremendous examples of just staying away from it. There is always too much opportunity for something negative to transpire."
Has that happened for you?
"Yes, for sure. I still make mistakes. Last year, I got into a situation where I was talking about the Hall of Fame. I said some things off-the-record but I didn't really designate it that way. I was just trying to explain and express myself. My gosh. That was embarrassing for me and my personal relationships with some of the players in the Hall of Fame. I got caught. I'm a veteran guy and I shouldn't have put myself in that situation. I just got caught up in it."
So what did you learn?
"I need to be more cautious. That's for sure. So now I try to stay away from those subjects. I'm more today about building relationships and staying positive and not focusing on that negative stuff. I want to just go to a game and enjoy myself and interact with the fans. Maybe play a little catch. Share stories. I'm hoping to just have a good time."