John Young, a baseball scout who founded Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, an organization that bolsters participation in the sport in underprivileged and often minority areas, died on Sunday in Orange County, Calif. He was 67.
His death was announced by Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred. A baseball spokesman said the cause was complications of diabetes.
Young grew up in South Central Los Angeles at a time when baseball was immensely popular within the city’s black and Latino neighborhoods. He played briefly for the Detroit Tigers before he became a scout and first noticed a dearth of black and Latino baseball prospects from poor American neighborhoods in the mid-1980s.
League officials and pundits attributed the decline in participation to baseball’s often plodding pace, its expensive equipment and facilities, and the exploding popularity of football and basketball. Young thought the affected neighborhoods lacked adequate baseball programs, which were readily available to white youths in the suburbs.
“Nowadays, kids think baseball is a white man’s game,” he told The Sun Sentinel, a Florida newspaper, in 1992.
Without a good feeder program to help them, potentially talented children often missed the chance to be recruited by colleges or the majors. In 1989, Young addressed the problem by creating Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, or RBI, in his hometown. (In baseball, those letters typically stand for “runs batted in.”)
The program was originally aimed at boys in their early teens. But teenagers in South Central Los Angeles were reluctant at first — only 11 showed up for the first tryout. Young said he thought baseball could…