Inside Pitch Magazine, May/June 2018

The Change Up: Diversity Within the Game

By Andre Butler
Andre Butler As a kid, the game of baseball was simply something my brother and I did to get out of the house and stay occupied. During my childhood, the longer I played the more I realized how good I was at the game. This allowed baseball to eventually become a big part of my life.

Part of what I believe to be so special about our game is its diversity. When you look around a locker room, you see many different faces, backgrounds, and ethnicities. This is a special thing: baseball has enabled me to develop lifelong relationships with friends and mentors, regardless of what they look like.

I grew up in North Philadelphia, a place where typically every child wants to play basketball or football. Baseball was largely considered to be a sport that only white kids played, but I never looked at it that way. I certainly was aware of the lack of blacks playing in the major leagues and even on my own youth teams, but I have never thought of baseball as a “white man sport.”

I didn’t play to break any color barriers like Jackie Robinson, I just played because baseball was fun. I didn’t care what the other neighborhood kids said. In fact, I would always get weird looks from the neighborhood kids when I left the house in my baseball uniform, because no one on my block actually saw a baseball player up close!

Because of this game, I know folks from small towns with little diversity, as well as those from major cities.

Because of this game, I can have an educated conversation about country music as well as rap music.

The culmination of these aspects, along with many others, is a result of what baseball has given me. It is why I consider myself to be a well-rounded individual who can relate to different people from different cultures.

As I continue to move further into my coaching career, I have observed and contemplated the lack of blacks in the game, and I must say that it makes me more eager to continue my success on the field. Unfortunately, when I step onto the field, there are not many who look like me, and I hope that changes in the future.

Currently, on our roster at Penn State, we have three African Americans. Next year, we will have four. As coaches, our job is to prepare our student-athletes for the real world and what better way to do that than allowing our locker room to have a sense of diversity?

This game has taken me to many different parts of the world, places that a typical kid from North Philly would never see. I’ve had the opportunity to coach in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. We open up our season at Hawaii in a couple years. I’ve even had the opportunity to play in two of my favorite major league ballparks, Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park.

It is because of these great experiences and exposure that the game of baseball has made me who I am today as a person. I will forever be grateful for all the relationships that I have made and I look forward to making many more throughout my coaching career.

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