As I grew up in rural South Carolina in the 1980s, baseball was my favorite hobby and pastime. For most of my 7 year Dixie league/recreational league baseball career (ages 5 to 12), my dad was my coach. I don’t remember watching baseball on television because we only had three to four channels and did not have cable.
On my first baseball team, I was the only black player; and then after that most of my teams were majority black. At this time I only had vague notions about race, although I knew that I was black. Because both of my parents worked, my brother and I attended a day-care facility in town. The day-care provider was a thirty-something year old white woman and most of the children in her care were also white. Again, I had little sense of my blackness.
Of the many books on hand at the daycare, one day I discovered a children’s book about Jackie Robinson. By this time, I’m in the third grade and am a good reader, so I read the book very quickly. Just as quickly, it becomes one of my favorite books.
I was extremely excited for several reasons: Never before I had a read a book with a Black main character. I knew there were black baseball players, but did not feel like I knew any very well. The book discussed racism that Robinson faced and how he overcame it and became one of the best baseball players in his generation (Rookie of the Year and MVP). It was the first example of people facing hardships because they were black and Jackie Robinson overcame the hardships. And lastly, a big part of my own racial development and understanding was that being black was not just about facing hardships in the past and overcoming them.
I continued to study Negro league baseball. Read several books and became fascinated by these invisible men who participated in a separate but unequal league, but had equal or superior baseball talent.