The Jackie Robinson Award, named after the legend who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, has lived up to its legacy with half of its past six awardees being Black players: Michael Harris (National League, 2022), Devin Williams (N.L. 2020), and Kyle Lewis (American League, 2020). 





Robinson set the precedent that Black players could flourish in Major League Baseball after they were excluded from organized baseball for 80 years. The award started out as an honor for the Majors’ best overall rookie but has since expanded to an award given to one player per league. Today, Black players work their hardest to make the same impression that Robinson did.


Baseball fanatics have come to love the intensity that players of color bring to the game. The energy and electricity that has kept fans intrigued has come from youthful players trying to make a lasting imprint on their teams to stay on MLB rosters.

MLBbros By The Numbers: 6.2 % And Rising?


Overall, the average age of Black players on Opening Day rosters is 27, with 63% of Black players younger than 30. 


Since 1947, MLB has been making progress in terms of inclusion, however slow it may be. Diversity at the Major League level is inching upwards on a consistent basis year after year. Of the 945 players on Major League Opening Day rosters and inactive lists in 2023, 40.34% came from a diverse background (Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American), which is more than two percent higher than in 2022 (38%) and 2021 (37.6%). Black players make up just 6.2% (59) of that population.


Five MLBbros Chosen In The Top 18 Picks Of 2022 MLB Draft


Also, the flow of high-level talent is increasing as Black players represent a higher percentage of the top prospects in the minor leagues.


As of April 2023, six of the top 25, 10 of the top 50, and 14 of the top 100 MLB Pipeline prospects are Black, and 49% of this list includes players of diverse backgrounds (Black, Latino, Asian). 

MLB Diversity Programs 

Programs like the DREAM Series, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Youth Baseball Academies, and others have been indispensable in spreading the knowledge of the beloved game to Black and brown adolescents who haven’t previously had the opportunity to engage with the sport. 


History was made in the 2022 Draft when, for the first time, Black players made up four of the first five selections, proving that the game continues to develop. All four players were alumni of the DREAM Series, a diversity-focused development program offered in part by MLB & USA Baseball.



This access to baseball at a younger age in diverse communities plays a role in talent reaching the next level. Nine players selected in the first round of the ‘22 Draft were Black (30.0%), the most by total and percentage since 1992, when 10 of the 28 first-round selections were Black (35.7%). Black players have represented a higher percentage of top selections in the past two years, with 12.5% of the top 100 selections being Black (12 of the top 100 in 2021; 13 of the top 100 in 2022).

World Baseball Classic 

As the World Baseball Classic displayed – and participants agreed – the atmosphere of fans and players from countries around the world makes for an electric environment for games to be played. 


“I’ll play in every World Baseball Classic there is until I can’t walk anymore,” Chicago Cubs ace Marcus Stroman said. “That passion is something that’s unmatched and that energy, I love it. I love everything about it.”


“You can ask any of those guys, they will tell you they’d rather play in those games than the World Series,” Stroman continued. “Putting your country across your chest and playing for your family and your culture, there’s nothing that competes against it.”


These players of color bring their love of the game and their competitive spirit to the Majors to encourage change to the old, washed-up habits that were created about how America should play the nation’s pastime. 

MLBbros Still Fighting For A Fair Shake 


While diverse baseball crusaders anxiously anticipate Minor League player call-ups or big-time performances from their favorite players in the bigs, that wasn’t always the case for players of color. And it hasn’t been easy to bring diversity to every team; there are currently three teams without a Black player on their Big League roster (Red Sox, Rockies, Angels). No team has more than four Black players on their squad. 


Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947, with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. Because he was able to hold his ground, bite his tongue and not be intimidated, he left the game in 1956 as one of the most hated players. Seventy-six years later, players are still attempting to bring the passion that was so often seen in the Negro Leagues to the Majors that originally enticed former Dodgers president Branch Rickey to take a chance on Robinson.


While there are still fans who want the old school game to be played, there are lovers of the new play style that exudes passion and swagger with bat flips, trash talk, and celebrations that bring thrills to the game of baseball in the regular season, rather than waiting until that expectation during the postseason. 


“They want to be in that moment each and every time playing for their country, regardless of what month it is in,” Stroman said about competing in the WBC.  


With talent clawing at the gates of the Minors to get their shot in the bigs, it’s seemingly the end of the old-timers’ game and the beginning of a new era, an era that appreciates the young players and their riveting gamesmanship that keeps fans glued to the television and buying tickets to catch a glimpse of the superstars that are being molded from diverse backgrounds. 



“There needs to be a way to put our personalities and players on display much better,” Stroman said. “You’re now seeing from the World Baseball Classic how much viewership we can truly have as a sport. So there’s a lot of work to be done in MLB.”

Jackie Robinson would agree.

Share This