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MLB maintains progress in racial, gender hiring as African-American player numbers decline

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Major League Baseball maintained its racial and gender hiring practices in the last year, while the percentage of African-American players equaled a study's all-time low set in the 2007 season.

That's according to the annual report by Richard Lapchick's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. It gave MLB an A grade in racial hiring and C-plus in gender hiring.

The baseball rosters on opening day featured 8.2 per cent of players who identified as African-American, equaling the all-time low for the second time since the study began in 1988. It's a decline from 8.3 per cent in 2013 and 8.9 per cent in 2012.

In April 2013, MLB instituted a task force to consider ways to increase diversity in the game, especially among African-American players.

Overall, 39.1 per cent of players (295) in baseball are people of colour, with Latino players making up 28.4 per cent (214) of that figure. Still, study author Richard Lapchick noted that there is concern throughout baseball about the steady decline of African-American players since 2000.

In gender hiring, there was an increase for women in team professional administration positions from 26.3 per cent (357 women) to 27 per cent (376), while in the league office those numbers fell from 35.6 per cent (155) in 2012 to 30 per cent (157) last year. Though there was an increase in the number of women, the total number of positions also rose from 435 in 2012 to 537 in 2013.

However, Lapchick noted that at the senior executive level positions in the league office, women occupied 21.4 per cent (12 of 56 positions), an increase of 18.7 per cent. That, he said, indicates MLB's doing a better job of interviewing diverse candidates for positions.

"Changes in sports are slow," Lapchick said. "You will meet people who have jobs in Major League Baseball who have had those jobs for 15 or 20 years. So when those jobs become available, they have to be ready for it and have candidates ready to help change the demographics."

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