John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Baseball and Baltimore

Posted on April 28, 2015
Oriole Park at Camden Yards

"OrioleParkAtCamdenYardsJune2013" by Keith Allison - Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I was watching video of the riots in Baltimore.

One of the kids throwing rocks at the cops had a pretty good arm.   Side-armed delivery. Lots of velocity.

He should be playing baseball.

Instead, he is throwing rocks at cops.

It is a sad commentary that kids like him are shutting down Major League baseball games instead of playing baseball with their friends.

The White Sox were supposed to be playing the Baltimore Orioles yesterday.   But that game got called off because of the riots.

I watched video of black kids throwing garbage, rocks and their fists at Orioles fans, huddled in one of the bars right next to one of the nicest baseball stadiums in the Major Leagues.

It was scary for the fans, some of whom were bloodied in the process. They came to the game with intention of drinking beer and watching America’s greatest pastime.

If that were an NFL game, I assure you the fans would have counter-attacked. Football brings out the beast in people.

Baseball takes organization. It takes money to buy gloves and bats and take care of the fields. It is far cheaper and far easier to give the kids a basketball. Black kids play a lot more basketball than baseball.

David Angelos, the son of Peter Angelos and the COO of the Orioles, made this commentary on the riots:
My greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards.

His father made billions as a trial lawyer, suing corporate America, so it is no surprise that this Angelos has taken a liberal position, blaming the broader economic factors for the riots that engulfed his stadium.

But, he should look in the mirror.

I don’t know how far the Orioles footprint is in Baltimore, if they have funded youth programs in these tough neighborhood. Maybe they do. But they should do more.

They should take some of the millions of dollars that they make every year off the largely white fans who come to their stadium and invest it in the toughest communities of Baltimore.  Angelos should put his money where his mouth is.

They should get black kids interested in baseball again.

The St. Louis Cardinals should do the same thing in Ferguson, the White Sox should do the same thing on the South Side of Chicago.

Major League scouts scour the world looking for baseball talent. They go to the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba, Japan, China.

But how good of a job do they do in the South Side of Chicago, or the toughest neighborhoods in Washington, or in the streets of Baltimore?

The percentage of African-Americans playing baseball in the Major Leagues has dropped precipitously. Black kids just don’t play baseball like they used to.

Maybe that’s because the game moves slow. But I also think that baseball is a game taught by fathers to their sons. And if you don’t have a father to play catch with, to teach you how to bat, and teach you the other finer points of the game, you lose interest.

It’s also really expensive to go to a baseball game. Even with the cheapest of seats, baseball is no bargain.

So, if you don’t have a dad to teach you the game (and most of these kids don’t even know who their dad really is) and you never get a chance to go to a game because you can barely make enough money to put food on the table, you are going to play something else.

I know Major League baseball is making some efforts to teach kids the game. In Washington, the Nationals have an academy where kids from local high schools can learn the game.

But most of those kids have parents that are fully behind the idea of Johnny getting to the Major Leagues.

What about the kids who don’t have fathers?

About two blocks from Nationals Stadium, there is a baseball field in a housing project called Greenleaf Gardens. They have a baseball team of Little Leaguers in a pretty tough neighborhood. I know that because they play in my son’s League and we play them on occasion.

For a bunch of little white kids, it is an eye-opening experience to play at Greenleaf because the little boys from Greenleaf Gardens have a completely different life experience that our kids do. It’s also eye-opening for the parents.

But this is the kind of interaction that has to happen if we are ever to make this country move forward on race relations.

And I betcha the kids at Greenleaf (as well as my son) would love it Ian Desmond or Denard Span would pay a visit.  That would be really cool.

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