CLEVELAND -- Micah Johnson thinks Major League Baseball has an audience with young African Americans, it just needs to reach them.
The White Sox second baseman is excited for the opportunity to start Wednesday on Jackie Robinson Day and to pay tribute to the legendary Brooklyn Dodger. But Johnson, who will bat ninth when the White Sox play the Cleveland Indians, is saddened by the decline in African American players, who only represent 7.8 percent of the players on Opening Day rosters. He hopes MLB takes advantage and better markets players like Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and San Diego’s Tyson Ross, Justin Upton and Melvin Upton.
“It’s not like what it used to be,” Johnson said. “Basketball is kind of huge. … “Everybody knows who Steph Curry is and Kyrie Irving. Everybody knows who those guys are because they’re on TV all the time.
[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox bullpen has different 'vibe' in 2015]
“That’s what it really takes is to kind of put it in the face of the kids so they can see. You’ve got a guy like McCutchen, an MVP who has dreads … you can be yourself and still play baseball.”
Even though the day is intended to honor Robinson, as players throughout the league wear No. 42 jerseys, Johnson also believes it honors the late White Sox great Minnie Minoso. Same as Robinson, Minoso endured hardships because of his skin color and race. Johnson sees Minoso, who passed away in February, as a trailblazer for many of his Spanish-speaking teammates.
“He’s equally important,” Johnson said. “He set the stage for (Jose) Abreu and all these guys, the international game.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Johnson doesn’t expect baseball’s African American population to continue to decline. But he also thinks MLB, which has worked to create opportunities in the inner-city in several major markets across the United States, needs to continue its proactive efforts to draw more fans.
“Everything always has those phases,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take baseball to put the players to the forefront. Market the McCutchens, the Uptons, the Brantleys, Tyson Ross, Taijuan Walker, Dee Gordon, all these young faces to really put them out there so that kids can see them.”