Arlington -- On a sun-splashed March morning with Rangers opening day less than three weeks away, a group of North Texas kids spends part of their spring break on the baseball diamond, and it's a good place to be.
These aspiring stars participating in a Rangers sponsored youth clinic, working on skills, trying their best to play like their heroes.
Rangers Youth Baseball Director Homer Bush, a former major leaguer himself, is always on the look-out for young talent, but even more focused on providing a great experience.
"When you highlight things that a kid can hold on to and focus on for years to come," said Bush, "I think that's a cool moment."
Bush understands those moments implicitly. He was a standout football player in East St. Louis, but made the decision many don't, opting against football for a career chasing his baseball dreams.
He played in parts of eight major league seasons, including a stint with the Yankees in 1998 when they won the World series.
In terms of growing the game, part of the initiative for Bush and the Rangers is also to try and increase the number of African Americans making it to the major leagues, because in the not so distant past those numbers have hit a wall.
Back in 1986 African American participation was at an all time high, making up 19 percent of opening day rosters. But in the 20 years since, that number has dipped to just eight percent.
"Personally I feel its due to the lack of understanding of how to play the game of baseball, so information is key," says Bush.
Major League Baseball is also funding youth baseball leagues aimed at underprivileged kids. The Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities, or RBI program, has several alumni that have made it to the big leagues.
The numbers haven't been enough to create a turnaround, but the decline of blacks in baseball has slowed.
The Rangers have also opened a youth academy in West Dallas, another move aimed at turning the tide in minority participation levels.
"We're not trying to pull them away from other sports," says Bush. "But we just want them to try the game because if you take their skill sets and put it on a baseball diamond they're going to be unique athletes."
And perhaps find out just how good the diamond life can be.
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