By Bob Cohn - Emmanuel "Manny" Burris and Jared Williams know they stand out, if not entirely for the right reasons.
..."I'm not surprised when I look at a team's roster and see just one African-American player," said Burris, a switch-hitting shortstop for the Augusta (Ga.) GreenJackets, a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Both Williams, who is with the Charlotte County (Fla.) Redfish of the independent South Coast League, and Burris
played college baseball, which has an even smaller percentage of black players than the major leagues. Burris grew up in the U Street/Cardozo area of Northwest and attended Kent State University in Ohio after graduating from Woodrow Wilson Senior High School.He
was named Mid-American Conference player of the year after his
junior season and was taken by the Giants with the 33rd pick of the 2006 amateur draft.
Like many who ponder the question, Burris
and Williams have their theories about why so many black youngsters do not play baseball at all or stop playing as they get older.
"It's pretty obvious why," Burris
, who played several of his
high school games on the Wilson football field, said of the few regulation diamonds available in the District, only Banneker Field, across Seventh Street Northwest from Howard University
, is in decent shape.
"And that field, compared to any other suburban field, would be dead last," he
Mr. Williams is encouraged that after his son and Burris
, two more black players from the District have earned college scholarships - Landon School's Marcus Jones for North Carolina State University and Gonzaga College High School's Gerard Hall Jr. for Old Dominion University
"When a young kid looks at television and sees baseball but doesn't see any African-Americans in it, or they see Sammy Sosa and they see his
skin color is black, but they know he's
not an African-American, they don't give themselves that option," Burris
Jared Williams and Burris
played other sports.
...Burris was a decent point guard on the Wilson basketball team, but baseball always was his "passion," he said.
So why did Burris
and Williams come to love the game that so many of their peers and friends were rejecting?