NYC HIGH SCHOOLS REPLACE BASEBALL WITH CRICKET
Seven NYC high schools will field teams in new "varsity sport" of cricket next year: A cricket clinic was held in Cunningham Park, Queens on Saturday May 12, 2007. Why isn't MLB conducing more baseball clinics and why didn't it do more to stop the NYC ban on metal baseball bats?
Less than one month ago baseball executives, pundits, players and fans lamented the fact that MLB has a declining number of Black American ball players. That development was duly noted on Jackie Robinson Day. There was much gnashing of the teeth while various voices gave numerous theories why that is the case.
Meanwhile, above the din in Bristol, CT and certain Park Avenue offices, the New York City Council was doing its bit to make it tougher for inner-city kids to play baseball. In its infinite ignorance, New York City legislators have voted to ban aluminum baseball bats. The prohibition on baseball bats was so popular in the Council it was able to swat down Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto.
However, New York's Public School Athletic League (PSAL) has approved the recognition of cricket as a high school varsity sport. Therefore, 7 schools will field cricket teams next year.
"When I saw the ad on the wall I said, 'Damn, I've got to be dreaming,' " said Avinash Sookhwa, 18, a junior at John Adams HS in Queens who emigrated from Guyana in 2004.
Baseball is America's game. New York City is a baseball city. Thousands of New York kids follow the Mets and Yankees but fewer of them are playing baseball. Playing baseball in the PSAL was a unique way to keep playing because most kids can't afford to play on travel teams. NY's schools have produced great major leaguers like Manny Ramirez.
Baseball is far more popular around the world than is cricket. MLB has players from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Venezuela and Curacao, but it's rare to find a player who hails from Chicago, Mobile, AL, Brooklyn and South Central.
One New York high school coach who knows a lot more about baseball than some bureaucrats sums up the bad news...
Steve Mandle, varsity baseball coach at George Washington HS and a one-time mentor to Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox, worries that the school's current budget can't afford regular purchases of expensive wooden bats.
"I'm an old-school guy. I prefer wood. But financially, it's going to be a disaster, an utter disaster," he told The Post.
At end-of-summer, wooden-bat tournaments, Mandle says, teams he coaches tear through bats. "I've got kids who throw 80, 90 miles an hour. We [just] go through bats."
At $75 a pop, this could get very expensive, very fast.
So we wondered whether the council had made any provision for replacing broken bats - like paying for them.
Yesterday, we asked Oddo.
"You think I'm going to give you the bullets to shoot me back down? You've already ripped me a new [expletive] four times. I may be crazy, but I'm not that crazy," he said.
We take that to be a no.
Which isn't at all surprising.
Pols like Oddo tend to welcome the publicity that self-aggrandizing legislation generates but are generally too ignorant to understand the consequences of their actions - or too arrogant to care.
Oddo was also dismissive of the bat-safety issue yesterday ("I don't need a study of injuries," said the councilman), leaving the last word on that to Mandle, too.[New York Post]
Instead of making it even harder for disadvantaged youth to play America's pastime, our leaders should be finding ways to make it easier for kids to play on the city sandlots. Cricket is a niche sport that will never gain widespread popularity. Why are city schools fielding cricket teams for a small group of players? If anything, American sports and sporting culture should be encouraged.
The next time you hear about the dearth of Black Americans in MLB think about the deprived kids at George Washington HS and other similar schools around New York City.
Bud Selig is good at making speeches in Rachel Robinson's presence but he has been derelict in shepherding the game where it counts - in our cities.
James Oddo, (Staten Island), New York City Council and Major League Jerk
Legislative Office Address:
250 Broadway, 15th Floor
NY, NY 10007
Legislative Office Phone No.: (212) 788-7159
Legislative Office Fax No.: (212) 788-7232
(R.B.I.) Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities:
Major League Baseball
phone: (212) 931-7800
1) Cricket Bowls Over HS Kids
2) Oddo Goes Batty