Dombrowski opens up on MLB's Diversity Task Force

Tigers president/GM shares goals, progress of committee's work in Q&A with

NEW YORK -- Dave Dombrowski is president, CEO and general manager of the Tigers. In addition to that, he was named Chairman of Major League Baseball's 19-person On-Field Diversity Task Force, which was formed by Commissioner Bud Selig in April to address the decline of African-American players in the game.

Dombrowski took time out from the Owners Meetings at MLB's Park Avenue headquarters Wednesday to talk about the committee's work. Why is this such an important issue for baseball?

Dombrowski: "I think there are a few reasons. The number of African-Americans on the field has declined greatly throughout the years. With that you start talking about the talent supply, you talk about future fans and increasing our fan base. And there are a lot of different factors that fall off of that. That's why I think it's extremely important." How much of it is competing with other sports for the best athletes?

Dombrowski: "I think that comes down to talking about increasing the overall number of African-Americans who play the game, the diversity aspect of it. There's no question that's a component of it because we'd like to attract the best athletes possible to our game and find a way to bring them to our game."" Why do you think you were chosen to chair the task force?

Dombrowski: (Laughing) "I've been asked that question, and I don't really know. That's really a question for the Commissioner to answer. Now, when I say that, there's a Diversity Committee. We just had our meeting [Wednesday]. I've been a member of that committee for the last number of years. And being part of that committee, my background is the business part as well as the on-field aspect of player development and scouting. So there are lots of different parts of my career that would lead me to be involved in different areas of baseball. But I'm not sure if that's why I was chosen." How often have you met?

Dombrowski: "We met in April in Milwaukee. We then had this committee meeting [Wednesday], and then we're going to meet again at the end of June in Detroit." But the Diversity Committee is different from the Task Force, right?

Dombrowski: "The Task Force reports to the Diversity Committee. [Rays principal owner] Stuart Sternberg is the Chairman of that committee and is the individual who is in charge that we directly report to. He represents all the committee members." Is there a timetable to make your recommendations?

Dombrowski: "We have a lot of different areas we're trying to address. But what we want to make sure is that this doesn't lead to meeting after meeting after meetings and years and years and years. We're trying to put this into place sometime in the next year. There's a lot of research. Because it's not only identifying the problem, but then it's making a recommendation. It's being in position to try to have a comprehensive solution to the problems and then the implementation of those solutions. Even though we'll be meeting every three months or so, there's no specific time frame for when we do that.

"We will also have a committee that we have appointed. And when we have those committees, they'll be reporting back to the total group." The latest Lapchick Report was released this week and it showed that the percentage of African-Americans on Opening Day rosters was down again, to 8.3 percent. Does that add some urgency to what you're trying to accomplish?

Dombrowski: "That number didn't surprise us because, in our research, we came up right about 8 percent. So, sure, that's an alarming number. That's a concerning number. That's what we're trying to change. The concern is there. But then you have to look at the pipeline. You have to look at the number of African-Americans playing high school sports. High school baseball, college baseball. The number of players we have in our Minor League system. So all of these parts play into the total number and the percentage, which we're going to try to improve." You're still in the early stages of this process, but baseball has had the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program for years as well as the urban academies that have been built. How much more can you do at the grassroots level?

Dombrowski: "Well, that's to be really decided upon as time goes on. Major League Baseball has a lot of good programs. Youth baseball is growing tremendously at the Little League age. So that's what our focus will be, to see what we can do and I can't answer that now. Because that's really what we've been entrusted to do, to try to come up with those recommendations. Time will tell, but we think we can do more than we're presently doing."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.