Bud Fowler. Moses Walker. Jackie Robinson.
Fowler is credited for being the first black person to play baseball. Walker is credited for being the first black person to ever play in the Major League. Robinson became the modern era hero for all African -Americans in baseball by starting at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Robinson inspired many African-Americans to play baseball, and the MLB honors him by displaying the number 42 on April 15 every year, which is crowned Jackie Robinson Day. His story is now a major motion picture, “42,” which is in currently in theaters.
But the percentage of black players on MLB rosters Opening Day has dropped to 7.7 percent from the 8.5 percent since the start of last season. Over the past 10 years, the highest percentage was 10.2 percent in 2008, according to USA Today Sports.
Appalachian State head coach and former Oklahoma State recruiting coordinator Billy Jones said that the trend is disturbing.
“I hate to see a large portion of such an important segment of our population not participating in our game, no matter what the reason might be,” Jones said. “I applaud Major League Baseball for its recent initiatives to increase participation in baseball.”
True freshman outfielder Jaylin Davis said Robinson means a lot to him.
“He paved the way for me and many more African-Americans in the sport,” Davis said.
Davis’ favorite player now is Derek Jeter and his favorite team is the N.Y. Yankees. Like most children growing up, Davis played many sports, excelling in both basketball and baseball.
Davis said that he had a friend who played basketball and baseball with him growing up, but his friend gravitated toward basketball while Davis chose baseball.
This has been a growing trend in baseball.Davis said that his most memorable game was his first college game against N.C. State.
“I hit a three-run home run at my first college at-bat,” he said.
Davis hit a three-run home run on his very first pitch ever thrown to him in a college game off the potential first pick in 2014 MLB draft, Carlos Rodon.
So far this season, Davis has a batting average of .328, has 41 hits, 11 doubles, three triples, four homeruns and 28 RBIs.
Davis said he began realizing he was good at baseball during his sophomore year in high school when colleges began scouting him. He plans to take his skills to the major league in the future.
Regardless of the statistics and what the MLB is planning to do, Davis is excited to play college baseball.
He doesn’t care who he plays for in the future. If he continues with his level of play collegiately, he could be the next Andrew McCutchen or Matt Kemp, who are his other two favorite players.
Davis is prepared for the challengesas he follows the best advice he’s ever received.
“Baseball is a game of failure,” Davis said his old coach taught him. “If you couldn’t accept [failure] then it wasn’t for you.”
Story: JAMES ASHLEY, Sports Reporter
Photo Courtesy: App State Athletics/ DAVE MAYO