Hawkins talks black players in game

Hawkins talks African-Americans in game

PHOENIX -- Rockies right-handed reliever LaTroy Hawkins wore the No. 42 jersey to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, but he wonders about the dwindling number of African-American players that will follow.

Hawkins, who pitched the previous two games against the Diamondbacks and didn't throw in Sunday's 6-4 loss, said many factors have led to the gradual reduction in the number of black players in the Majors. But he knows of one who has the desire.

"I can speak for one kid," Hawkins said. "I have a little cousin that plays baseball in Gary, Ind., Jay, and he's 13. And he loves the game. He'd rather be playing baseball than doing a lot of other things. He loves the game in a way you don't see in African-American kids today. His love is totally different.

"He loves everything about it, the thinking part, the failure -- the fact that it's the only game where you can fail a lot and still be successful. Sometimes when kids fail, they don't want to try again."

The attention paid by African-American youths to basketball and football instead of baseball, the expense of the game at the youth level and the fact the NCAA limits baseball to 11.7 scholarships are factors that have been discussed much with the attention to Robinson's accomplishment.

Hawkins pointed out that it takes more to make it in baseball today. Some families simply can't afford this love affair.

"I tell him every day that his dad is making so many sacrifices for him to be able to play baseball, because he really wants to play the game," Hawkins said. "Now, if he didn't want to play the game, my cousin probably wouldn't be making those sacrifices.

"He plays on a travel team, and his dad works in a steel mill. It's $1,200-$1,500. That's a lot of money and that's just for uniforms and tournaments. That doesn't include the $5 to get into the games for my cousin, his girl and his other son.

"And I bought him a bat this year, and it was $299. Everything about the game is too expensive, way too expensive, especially for the average income or the below-average income. If a family is making $30,000 a year, they're thinking, 'Maybe I'll pay this money to send my kid to a private school.'"

For Sunday, though, Hawkins was humbled and happy. He also wound up with an unintentional keepsake.

The original No. 42 the Rockies issued had his last name on the back, but MLB insisted that the game jerseys not have that. So Hawkins got to keep that one. The official game jersey will be auctioned.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.