Semien aims to bolster Black youth baseball

Shortstop, Ross bros. team up for accessibility to sports in Bay Area

November 19th, 2020

Regardless of where he is playing baseball next season, plans to continue his efforts to revitalize interest in baseball among young African Americans around the Bay Area.

Semien, who is currently a free agent after spending the past six seasons with the A’s, is joining fellow Bay Area natives and Major League pitchers Tyson and Joe Ross in a partnership with Coaching Corps, a Bay Area-based organization focused on bringing access to quality youth sports and trained consistent coaches to communities of color faced with systemic disinvestment and inequity. The mission: Find more Black coaches who can provide guidance and mentorship to the Black youth in Oakland and the entire Bay Area, which in turn could boost interest in the sport among the group.

“As an African American growing up in the Bay Area, it was nice to have coaches who look like me,” Semien told on Wednesday. “But more importantly, it is nice to have somebody sacrifice the time, no matter what. A lot of these kids, especially here in the East Bay, are at a point in time where they're maybe a little confused about what their passion is right now.”

With the severe effects schools in low-income communities are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenge to find coaches for kids of color becomes even greater. For this reason, Coaching Corps is mapping out a plan to help fill these gaps in preparation for when schools are allowed to open back up. This allows a chance for the next generation of mentors, such as the ones who were available to Semien coming up in the youth leagues of El Cerrito and to the Ross brothers in Oakland.

“If schools close, where usually kids are out at recess playing sports, what can we do now?” Semien said. “I think Coaching Corps is trying to get ahead of the game and have coaches volunteer and steer these kids in the right direction during this time.”

The first step in this initiative comes through raising awareness, which is already underway with a social media campaign that the players will help boost. Coaching Corps will also work to gather equipment donations for organizations that can facilitate an opportunity for kids to play and raise funds to support efforts to recruit coaches.

“I think if we can get people to think about their experiences as a youth in that community playing sports and just think about the fact that, due to the pandemic, there might not be that opportunity for kids to play this upcoming spring, we can come together as a community,” Tyson Ross said. “Pull our resources and just take a look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, do I have the time to give to get out there twice a week and help these kids out?’ Give them a chance to have the same positive experience with youth sports that I had.”

There are many reasons that can be attributed to the declining number of Black players in the Major Leagues in recent years. Semien and the Ross brothers pointed to the increasing cost of playing baseball at a younger age -- particularly, compared to basketball -- as well as the rising popularity in travel ball, which requires far more expenses for hotels and flights. But if more Black coaches can be attracted to the youth leagues, they believe that presence can influence more Black kids to join those leagues and, perhaps, fall in love with the game of baseball at a young age, as Semien and the Ross brothers did.

“Kids need our help. Kids aren't going to be able to do this on their own,” Semien said. “There's a young generation that, with cell phones now and the internet and everything that kids are focused on, feels like it's shifting away from sports in the Bay Area and a lot of areas in the country. So I think we need some folks to volunteer to help these kids get back on track and get into sports. Then, we'll find out here that there are kids who really have some ability that could use this to their advantage and take it to the next level.”