VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The numbers from opening day 2012 aren't yet available, so we don't know if the trend is continuing.
We don't know if the percentage of American blacks playing Major League Baseball continues to dwindle, wallowing at a single-digit level that concerns the suits running the game.
We can only wonder what Jackie Robinson, who boldly broke through baseball's color barrier 65 years ago, would say about the dearth of black players now on big-league rosters.
"I think he'd be perplexed," Peter O'Malley said the other day from his office at the Vero Beach Sports Village, the old Dodgertown complex where the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, the team his family owned for nearly five decades, conducted spring training for 61 years before departing for the Arizona desert in 2008.
"He was so bright and so perceptive that he would've spotted the trend early and made sure it was addressed. He'd want to know why it was happening and what could be done about it."
The numbers are alarming.
In 1975, 27 percent of major league players were American blacks. Twenty years later, that number was down to 19 percent. And it has dropped significantly since -- to 13 percent in 2000 and bottoming out at 8.2 percent in 2007.
On opening day 2011, only 8.5 percent of major leaguers were black.
Since 2004, in fact, the percentage of black players has reached double digits only once: 10.2 percent in 2007.
In comparison, nearly 80 percent of NBA players and nearly 70 percent of NFL players are black.
Why such a glaring disparity?
O'Malley, who sold the Dodgers in 1998, points to the increased opportunities for black athletes in football and basketball that emerged in the 1960s and '70s -- opportunities to play those sports in college, particularly at major universities in the South, that evolved in the wake of Robinson's historic debut in the major leagues.
"There's a lot more competition now," said O'Malley, 74, a partner in the group operating the sports village here. "And it's not just the opportunity to play football and basketball, it's also the opportunity to go directly from college to the NFL or NBA.
"Players, black or white, don't have to go through two, three, five, sometimes six years of the minor leagues in football and basketball. They do in baseball. You can get to the big leagues sooner in the NFL and NBA. You can get to the big salaries quicker.
"And as everyone knows," he added, "we now live in a world where everyone wants instant recognition and immediate gratification."
Then there's this: The NCAA allows Division I baseball programs to award the equivalent of only 11.7 scholarships, so many players get only partial grants-in-aid. That's not enough help for many black families.
The full-ride opportunities for upper-tier athletes are greater in football and basketball.
Competition with other sports, however, is only part of the problem.
Another factor is the lack of baseball fields in inner cities -- something MLB has addressed through its RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program, which it took over in 1989 and now is active in more than 200 U.S. cities, and its 6-year-old Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.
"Major League Baseball recognized the need to address this issue, and it has," O'Malley said, "From everything I've heard, these programs have been very successful in introducing baseball to kids who otherwise might never have played the game."
Among the products of the RBI program, which serves children ages 5 to 18, are Jimmy Rollins, Carl Crawford and Dontrelle Willis. But, clearly, there's plenty of work to be done to get black youths playing the game again.
With fewer blacks playing in the major leagues, there are fewer players for black children to embrace as their baseball heroes.
Thing is, most of us don't even notice -- except in April, when we celebrate the anniversary of Robinson's fate-altering first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Because Robinson opened the door to baseball not only for blacks, but for Latino and Asian players, too.
So we see the game's racial and ethnic spectrum -- on opening day last year, 27 percent of major league players were Latinos, 2.1 percent were Asian and 61.5 percent were white -- and don't notice what's missing.
"That's an interesting point," O'Malley said. "I think you'd have to consider that progress, bringing so many different cultures into baseball. You have to give Jackie credit for that, too."
Certainly, Robinson blazed a path, displaying a courage and character that enabled him to overcome so many obstacles, rise to national fame and become one of the most important civil rights leader in American history.
He created previously unthinkable opportunities for others.
He gave black athletes a choice.
An unless the numbers from opening day 2012 tell us otherwise, those athletes are still choosing to not play baseball.