Aaron wants to increase MLB interest among minorities
ATLANTA -- In his new role with the Atlanta Braves, Hank Aaron wants to increase the number of blacks in baseball by promoting the game to youngsters.
"Somehow, we lose them between the ages of 6 to 12," Aaron said Thursday. "But baseball is something that has longevity. If Bo Jackson would have played only baseball, he would've played a lot longer."
After the Braves were sold by Time Warner Inc. to Liberty Media Group, Aaron met with commissioner Bud Selig in New York this week about his enhanced position.
Selig has been close to Aaron since the slugger played for the Milwaukee Braves from 1954-65, and Aaron spent two seasons with Selig's Milwaukee Brewers before retiring as a player following the 1976 season.
Even though he won't have a formal job title, Aaron's task is forming programs through Major League Baseball that will encourage the influx of minorities into baseball.
"The commissioner wanted me to come back," Aaron said. "Making baseball a more diverse sport is something we both agreed on and felt it was a need for the future."
Aaron said baseball has become less popular in the black community because it isn't talked about as much as football and basketball. He said he wants to restore the image of blacks being a big part of baseball.
"It's become universal and we have slackened in looking for talent," Aaron said. "Blacks have played an important role in baseball. The decline is a problem and I feel like I can make the difference."
On Thursday, the Braves became a self-governed subsidiary of Liberty Media, with Terry McGuirk reporting to the team's board in his capacity as chairman and president. John Schuerholz remains as general manager and Bobby Cox as manager.
"I've had the good fortune to know him for over 17 years," Schuerholz said of Aaron. "Any idea he might have will be accepted with open arms. He will be very helpful in whatever he does."
Aaron won't be a new face in the Braves' front office. After setting the career home run record with 755 and retiring as a player, he became a Braves vice president and the director of player development in October 1976 and held that role for 13 years.
He became a senior vice president in 1989 and currently is on the club's board of directors. Asked if he'll be involved when Barry Bonds breaks his home run record, Aaron answered: "I don't have a comment. I don't want to be a part of that discussion."
McGuirk said Aaron's wisdom will be an asset in leading the Braves toward more championships. He believes that since Aaron garners so much respect, he will have an immediate impact in his new role.
"Hank is an icon not only in Atlanta, but nationally," McGuirk said. "It's great that he has been around the organization already, but it will be a lot better to see more of him."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press