As an African American who coaches high school baseball, Burbank's Alex DuPaty is sensitive to the issue of declining participation in the sport at the professional level by U.S.-born blacks.
In the 1970s, blacks made up 27 percent of Major League Baseball rosters. By 2006, that total had dropped to 8.4 percent.
DuPaty, a former Pittsburgh Pirates scout, agrees fewer African American kids are playing the sport and says MLB is partly responsible for the problem. He says the major leagues need to take more risks with African American players who have other options.
One of his own former players is an example.
Kiare Thompson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior center fielder, batted .390, stole 46 bases and tracked down balls far and wide last season for the Titans.
But Thompson, a member of The Bee's 2007 All-Metro first team, wasn't selected in MLB's June draft. Instead, he went off to Grambling State on a full-ride football scholarship.
"I was really shocked that he didn't get drafted," said DuPaty. "Here you have a kid with all the raw athletic ability, who steals nearly 50 bases, bats close to .400 and runs a sub 4.3 (seconds) 40 (-yard dash). What more could you want?"
He says Thompson was a baseball-first player but couldn't turn down a chance for a free education.
"If he had been drafted, he would have signed in a heartbeat," DuPaty said. "The kid loves baseball. He's doing spring football right now at Grambling, and I know he yearns to play baseball."