Fostering love of baseball at the grass-roots level

Akinlabi Mason greets his younger son Elijah, 8, after he scored a run as his older son Paul, 9, looks on during a Capitol Hill Little League game in June at Daniel A. Payne Elementary School in Washington. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)Akinlabi Mason greets his younger son Elijah, 8, after he scored a run as his older son Paul, 9, looks on during a Capitol Hill Little League game in June at Daniel A. Payne Elementary School in Washington. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
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As Emmanuel Burriss rose through the baseball ranks, from his Little League teams in D.C. to the minor leagues and finally to a spot in the majors with the San Francisco Giants, he noticed that fewer and fewer of his fellow players looked like him. Only 8.5 percent of players on Opening Day rosters in 2011 were black, continuing a downward trend that Burriss‘ father, Allen — who grew up in a self-described “baseball family” — finds discouraging.

But some are working to foster interest in baseball among black kids, including John McCarthy, a coach who helped Burriss on his path to the big leagues, and Akinlabi Mason, a father of two D.C. Little Leaguers who hopes his boys stick with a game many of their peers ignore.

They share their stories and hopes to grow the game from the grass-roots level with The Washington Times’ Rod Lamkey Jr. in a special multimedia project.

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