It’s become another of those self-fulfilling cliches that Blacks are no longer interested in baseball. The latest figures show only 7,8% of MLB clubs have Black Americans on the rosters. Despite the efforts for years of such organizations as RBI, Little League figures reflect a continuing disinterest in participation by Black youngsters. The growth of travel baseball, with its own set of expenditures, is widely viewed as another problem, while college baseball scholarships pale in comparison to what’s being offered in football and basketball packages, especially with the explosion of NIL (name, image, likeness) money available.
But last week MLB got some good news from an unexpected place. While Nashville doesn’t as yet have either a MLB team or even the definite promise of getting one, it does have a group of investors interesting in bringing big league baseball to the city. Music City Baseball (MCB) made a huge announcement, one that could have implications far beyond just getting a team here.
The group announced that Dave “Smoke” Stewart had been chosen to lead their Diverse Equity Ownership Initiative. This is a first-of-its-kind model for ownership of a MLB franchise. His credentials and experience are an invaluable asset. He’s a former MLB pitcher and 3x World Series champion, the 1989 World Series MVP, and 1990 Roberto Clemente Award winner. Stewart among others things has been tabbed to, as it says in the press release, “identify a collective of investors for joint ownership, prioritizing minority investors.”
Among many other issues MLB has no Black principal owners. Derek Jeter just left his position with the Miami Marlins. “The time has come for Black ownership in MLB. Now, more than ever, we need to change the dynamics and unlock access to ownership for minorities,” said Stewart, who has been a Board member and Baseball advisor for MCB since 2019. “We are creating a historic opportunity with the Nashville Stars, and I’m proud to lead our efforts to secure an ownership group that is aligned with our core mission, values, and legacy.”
One would think having visible and prominent Black leadership might help Nashville in its bid to get a team. “Nashville has a unique opportunity to preserve history by creating history, honoring our city’s legacy and bringing new opportunities for equity participation and economic development,” said John Loar, Managing Director of MCB. “Baseball has a rich history of breaking barriers, and the diversity equity ownership initiative under Dave’s leadership will do just that in a city that’s primed for a major league franchise.”
A bonus is that the team name would be the Nashville Stars, a nod to the city’s past legacy in the Negro Leagues. “The vision for the Nashville Stars is the future of the game. My focus is to honor former Negro Leagues players and bring Black and diverse voices to the table,” said Stewart. “Nashville is giving MLB the opportunity to do something that has never been done before. It’s time to make history.”
Hopefully Stewart’s presence will help the city’s bid. But he can also do something else. He can be a role model and possible influence to convince both youngsters and five-star multi-sport Black athletes to consider a baseball career rather than just assume that they must play football or basketball.
Time will tell whether Nashville is successful, but the Music City Stars have already won with their selection of Dave Stewart to be directly involved in the day-to-day operation.