The Story That Should Have Been Told
I have written over 50 feature articles in my career so far and the opportunity to share an individual’s story will always be special to me. There is no better feeling than shutting my laptop and resting my fingers after working them tirelessly across the keyboard, and the excitement leading up to an article being published.
Recently, I wrote a feature story about a tough subject for the first time. The story revolves around racism in baseball and the exclusivity that still exists in various aspects of the sport. Before anyone questions what happened to the article and why it did not get published, it did. However, it was the sugar-coated version. Because of the changes that were made (four different versions to be exact) I feel that the emphasis on the harsh reality is lost, and that is something I never wanted to lose. To me, racism is not a subject to be taken lightly. The subject has an ability to make people uncomfortable, and quite frankly, that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
Posted below is the story as I originally wrote it, with a more brief ending. Certain information was changed for privacy reasons. As much as I wish I could share the entire story with my readers, this will have to do for now…
Behind the Seams
The fight for inclusivity in baseball
Outlines of cleats take shape in the dirt and make a path from the dugout to the bus, as a cluster of crimson red jerseys begin to pile in after a long road game. One athlete lags behind, waiting to board last. *South City High School’s *Liam Jamison sits unaccompanied on the ride home, isolated from his teammates. However, this occurrence is not unusual to him. As the only African American baseball player on the varsity squad, an instance such as this is the least of his worries.
The South Carolina native’s love for baseball dates back to his early childhood years when his grandfather introduced him to the sport. Together the two would play catch in the backyard, practice hitting and discuss their favorite players.
“Anyone who encountered my grandfather knew that baseball was his thing and it's what he really advocated for,” Jamison said. “He had a shed full of baseball equipment and we played all the time. He would even hang a tire in the backyard for us to practice throwing accurately.”
His grandfather's passion for the game started as a young boy residing in South Carolina in the 1940s, after learning the ins and outs of the sport and admiring superstars like Hank Aaron, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. Those names have now since grown less and less popular among baseball fans today, as representation for African American athletes and fans has started to decline in recent years.
Today, the majority of major league and minor league baseball rosters consist of white players and managers, with Dave Roberts and Dusty Baker Jr. being the only two managers of color in the Majors. The lack of diversity in front offices is also alarming as the list of owners, executives and CEOs is similar.
Ray Doswell, the Vice President of Curatorial Services for the Negro League Baseball Museum, has been part of important conversations and research investigating into the decline within in the sport.
“Representation matters and you cannot say that people of color aren’t interested in the game because they have been since the beginning and still are,” Doswell said. “If they did not care the Negro League would not exist. Fans will want to come to games when they feel welcome.”
Doswell has been part of the museum since 1995 and oversees collecting artifacts, archives and helping with educational programs.
Aside from the question surrounding the lack of diversity in the stands, Doswell has looked deeply into how the scarcity of African American players is noticeable on all levels of professional baseball.
“There is no feeder system of talent for black athletes to play in their youth which means they usually do not play through high school,” Doswell said. “Since they don’t go to compete in college baseball there is no minor league opportunity that leads them to the pros.”
The shortage of opportunities to play baseball is something Jamison is all too familiar with growing up in the same town as his grandfather.
While the first sport he ever played was baseball, he later moved onto football in his middle school years after seeing the sport in mainstream media and having more resources for the particular game in his community.
“In a dominantly black area football and basketball were catered to us more than baseball, so they were more popular to play,” Jamison said. “I never saw athletes in the sport that looked like me so I didn’t always have the confidence to keep with it.”
Though he excelled on the football field and basketball court for the South City Cougars as an underclassman, he decided to return to baseball as a junior. Despite leaving the field for a few years, he was still surrounded by passion for the game with the influence of his grandfather and knew he could compete at the varsity level.
The only concern from his family after he made his decision to dust off his cleats were the obstacles he would face as an athlete of color.
“I knew I was good enough to compete and my grandfather was really excited for me to start playing again, he even got me new equipment to use,” Jamison said. “The issues I would face as the only black player on the team was something my family was concerned about but we knew it was unavoidable.”
Jamison’s battle as the single athlete of color in the baseball program was just as he, his family and friends anticipated.
Behind the scenes he dealt with hardships from not only his own teammates but opposing team players and fans. He was called ugly names and given dirty looks when he took the field.
“There is so much I had to deal with on the internal side, that it made me question if returning was the right decision,” Jamison said. “It became an all across the board battle when I received nasty comments and looks from fans and players on all the other teams too.”
After graduating high school, Jamison moved across the state to attend a university and play Division I football. After a successful undergraduate career, he left with a bachelor's degree in human services with a minor in sociology, and returned to his hometown.
Once he returned to his hometown, Jamison found his passion for helping and giving back to the community. He proceeded to start a non-profit organization that provides resources for programs and highlights the importance of giving back.
To increase awareness of organizations mission, Jamison created shirts with the special message: *Move Forward. After selling the shirts in various places successfully, he birthed a clothing line to complement the organization. This clothing line sales has helped the company provide scholarships for girls and supplies to underprivileged youth.
Jamison hopes that his story and love for baseball, along with passion for helping others can help bring awareness to the lack of diversity.
“I think having these conversations regarding the poor treatment and exclusivity makes people uncomfortable. But it's what needs to happen if there is going to be change, not just here, but everywhere,” Jamison said. “Even since graduating high school, I have had former teammates reach out to me and apologize for their hurtful actions.”
There are many local and nationwide resources available to learn more about the history of African American baseball and culture, including The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
*Changed for privacy.