NEW YORK (AP) -The new interim president of the NAACP belittled baseball's efforts to boost black participation, chastising the sport in a letter Tuesday to commissioner Bud Selig.
Baseball announced an agreement last month with KPMG in which the company will give $1 million annually to MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. Dennis Hayes called it ``a small step.''
``I hope that MLB will start listening to current and former African-American baseball players about their disappointment in the dwindling number of young blacks who are being coached and trained to enter the game that they love,'' Hayes wrote. ``They believe, just like the NAACP believes, that if we don't do something now, African-American players will become extinct when it comes to Major League Baseball.''
A study by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports said 8.4 percent of major league players last season were black, the lowest level in at least two decades.
MLB has been working to reverse that trend. In March, St. Louis and Cleveland played in an exhibition Civil Rights Game organized by MLB that drew attention to the problem. Part of the proceeds went to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Hayes wrote that he ``watched with amazement at how funding for baseball programs has found its way to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and other countries.''
Jimmie Lee Solomon, an executive vice president in the commissioner's office, was surprised by Hayes' letter.
``I wish sometimes we would all get together and do more constructively, sit down and talk more about what we really want to achieve and not grandstand,'' Solomon said.
Hayes took over as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when Bruce Gordon resigned in March. In a telephone interview, Hayes wouldn't address Solomon's contention that he was trying to attract attention rather than try to find solutions.
``Ours is an open letter to invite Major League Baseball to allow us to be helpful, if we can,'' Hayes said in a telephone interview. ``It's our game, too.''

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