Baseball player bucks the trend: First Black pitcher in 16 years

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Baseball player bucks the trend: First Black pitcher in 16 years

PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER ATHLETICS

PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER ATHLETICS

PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER ATHLETICS

PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER ATHLETICS

DaRyn Merriwether,
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Historically, baseball has had a low population of African American play ers.

Following Hank Aaron’s home run in 1979, there was an increase in Af- rican American players on game-day rosters. However, since 2013, only 8.3 percent of players were African American, according to the University of Central Florida Institute for Diversity in Sports. Marcus Williams, a Black and Filipino Oakland native and senior at Cal State East Bay, is the first African American pitcher in 16 years at the University.

Williams’ baseball career began with a promise of donuts that nev-er came. He never played organized baseball until his father lured him out of bed with donuts and took him to a team tryout. Unsure of whether he had found his sport, he returned the next day and the next.

“Before you know it, I’m on the team and I’ve been playing baseball ever since,” Williams said.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”Before you know it, I’m on the team and I’ve been playing baseball ever since,” -Williams said.[/mks_pullquote]

Williams attributes his dedication to baseball to his father. His father loved watching the Los Angeles Dodg- ers with his grandfather and listened to their games on the radio.

On the CSUEB official roster, Williams is listed as a utility player and can play multiple positions on the field. Only four of the 40 players on the CSUEB roster are listed as utili- ty. However, his current position on the baseball team is middle-infielder, which means he plays second base and he pitches as well.

Williams has played baseball all four years on a partial athletic schol- arship. During his freshman year, Williams returned with a broken fin- ger that could have had him out for the season. His progression as a play- er and determination led to him to become an “everyday starter” last year. “He is someone that is not afraid of a challenge and is always working on his game on and off the field,” said Bryan Mason, his best friend and teammate since high school. “I definitely admire him as a player for that. He motivates all of us to work hard and play to the best of our ability.”

According to Cal Stat East Bay’s former sports information director, Marty Valdez, there have only been two Afri- can American pitchers at East Bay since 1980; Lawrence Peltier from 1983 to1985 and Jermaine Edmonds from 1998 to 1999.

CSUEB’s 2016 roster includes five African Americans out of 40 players. Senior Myles Babitt and junior Marcus Wise along with Williams referred to themselves as “Black Power.” “We actually went 7 and 1 when we were all in that line- up together,” said Williams.

Although he described his re- lationship with the entire team as “tight,” Williams stated that having a certain level of camaraderie with other African American players has been beneficial on the field because they can relate to one another.

While there has been an increase of baseball outreach programs like RBI, Reviving Baseball in In- ner Cities, the absence of African American players is felt from little leagues to the major leagues.

“As far as race goes; you do have a little chip on your shoulder when you go out there being a minority on a field where you see mostly white faces because it’s almost as if they expect you to live up to the great Black players and stuff like that and then if you don’t it’s like you’re a failure,” said Williams.

In comparison to basketball and football, baseball is a costly sport to pick up. “The reality of it is just that some sports are very expensive and that’s why you don’t see too many African American’s in golf, or in tennis, or in lacrosse,” William said in an interview.

Despite the decrease in African American representation in the sport as a whole there has been an increase from the three African American males on the team last year at East Bay. Marcus Williams may not have gotten his donuts that first day of his first practice but with the support of his family and team- mates, he has reached a milestone in East Bay history.

After graduation this year he plans to attend graduate school but the ultimate goal is Major League Baseball.