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June 22, 2014

African-American baseball players dwindle in prep ranks

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Brady Acker is one of those athletes who played all three sports. But the Maryland native settled on baseball and is heading to George Mason to continue playing the sport.

“You just have to be an athlete to play this sport,” Acker said. “I practice every day. I played basketball and did the same thing. People think it’s not for black people. But if you look MLB, we are playing as well as any other race out there. It’s kind of cool to represent the black population in something like this.”

However, the numbers are hard to overlook. More full scholarships are given out in football and basketball. Those sports also offer a quicker road to the pros than baseball, which has a tradition of players proving themselves in the minor leagues first.

Yet, none of that has kept Lester Jr. from wanting to play baseball for a living.

“I wasn’t too good starting off,” Lester Jr. said. “I had to work at it. It takes time. Played football and basketball. I love baseball the most. You can play it longer.”

The black players who competed in the Heartland Classic acknowledge there is a stereotype that baseball is not for them. It’s one that has found a home in white and black communities. But it’s not one they plan to take in lying down.

“I’ve been playing baseball since I was three or four,” Mitchell said. “So I’ve always loved it. When People say that it’s not a black person’s sport, they’re just giving me more motivation to play my hardest.”

As disappointed as Lester Sr. is, he’s optimistic black kids will one day realize they are missing out on a great game and those numbers will soon starting going up.

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