As the Southern baseball team took its shot at top-ranked LSU on back-to-back nights this week, coach Roger Cador joined a committee of high-ranking baseball officials who together will study ways to make black players more prominent in America’s pastime.
Cador is part of a task force appointed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to create ideas on how to diversity a sport that has struggled more and more to attract black athletes.
The committee had its first meeting Wednesday in Milwaukee.
Although disappointed that he was not in the dugout for Southern’s games this week, Cador said he believes the initiative of the task force could be a game-changer.
“When you think that you can be part of getting something up and running again, I think it’s a huge honor,” Cador said. “I think when history’s written and everything is done, it’s going to be a historic event. I know now why (Major League Baseball) wanted me there. It was really important to be there.”
The committee consists of 18 members and includes the likes of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, former big-league manager Jerry Manuel, Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.
Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and Detroit Tigers president Dave Dombrowski are helping run the committee.
Cador has led Southern to 14 championships in the Southwestern Athletic Conference during his 29 seasons as coach, and Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks is among the future big-leaguers he has coached. Last year, Cador won his 800th career game.
According to an MLB news release, about 8.5 percent of players on opening day rosters this year identify themselves as African-American or black.
MLB has programs such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) already in place with the aim to help diversify the racial makeup of big-league baseball.
Cador said the passion of Selig during Wednesday’s meeting made the coach confident change is coming.
“This initiative has got to work, is going to work, better work,” Cador said Selig told the group. “Money’s not an issue. Whatever it costs, we have to make it work.”
Cador said one reason Selig is putting an emphasis on attracting more black athletes is because the commissioner believes it will make the game more entertaining and more marketable.
“I think more than anything, he’s looking at it from the athletic standpoint,” Cador said. “He’s saying, if we can get some of these superstars that are in basketball and football, it’s going to make a huge impact on the sport. He knows if he’s going to compete on the global market with those other two sports, you’ve got to have some of those superstars.”
Cador said he expects an increase in black ballplayers to happen slowly — not overnight.
“It’s a 15- to 20-year process before you really can see the return on the investment,”
Although the task force has a definite MLB flavor, the lack of black ballplayers in college baseball is every bit as evident as in the pro game.
To that end, Cador said he expects the task force to address some of the issues college baseball has had in attracting black athletes.
A notable challenge is that Division I college baseball programs are limited to 11.7 scholarships. Major football prgrams, by comparison, can offer 85.
When the committee members meet again, Cador said he expects them to look at ways to help make college basebal more diverse.
The next meeting will be held in New York in early May in conjunction with the MLB owners’ meetings, Cador said.
“That’s the one we’re really going to talk about when they get all the owners together,” Cador said. “I think they really want college to play a bigger role.”