TEMPE, Ariz. — Baseball has a big problem. We're not talking about the Houston Astros sign stealing drama that has dominated offseason discussion, but the lack of African-American players in the Major Baseball League.
This past year, just 8% of the league was made up of African-American players. In the 1970s, that number was close to 20%.
For the fourth year, the MLB and USA Baseball are hosting the "Dream Series," a special development camp at Tempe Diablo Stadium that hosts a diverse group of more than 60 high school pitchers and catchers from across the country.
"It's a blessing to be around these guys that can play," University of Arizona commit Chase Davis said. "Every single guy can pitch well and hit well."
Coaches at the 2020 Dream Series include former MLB players and managers Bob Didier, Marvin Freeman, Mike Scioscia, LaTroy Hawkins, Jerry Manuel, Darren Oliver and Lenny Webster.
"It's a small slice of the cake, but in that slice it's got all the ingredients," former Mets and White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said.
The camp also works to prepare the prospects for the collegiate and professional recruiting processes and offer information about alternative careers within the baseball industry.
"Being here and learning from the great generations before us is amazing," Arizona State commit Derrick Mitchell said.
"I think we're making some strides, because every time I come back, the talents gets better and better and better," Manuel said.
Manuel says a way to grow the game of baseball amongst African-Americans is getting parents and kids to realize the longevity in baseball.
"I think what happens is that the glamour early of [football] is getting to the African-American," Manuel said. "I think parents now are starting to understand that, 'my son might not be walking when he's 35 years old.' The longevity of our game is a lot different than any other game."
The final day of the camp takes place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On that day, King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech blares over the speakers during camp.
"It brings something out of everyone," University of Arizona commit Chase Davis said.