CINCINNATI -- During his ESPN baseball telecasts, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan has often expressed concern about the diminishing number of black youths playing baseball. He's going to try to do something about it with his former team.
Morgan signed on to help the Cincinnati Reds as a special adviser on Wednesday, working primarily with its community outreach and diversity programs. He also will be available to give advice on player matters, though that will be a small component of his part-time job.
"I'm not here to make baseball decisions," Morgan said. "I'm on the air a lot and I recognize the fact that African-American participation in Major League Baseball is going down. And it's very easy for me to sit on television and talk about it. I wanted to help try to change that."
The 66-year-old Morgan was the catalyst of the Big Red Machine's offense, winning back-to-back MVP awards while leading Cincinnati to World Series championships in 1975-76. He retired in 1984, ran some businesses in California and became an ESPN baseball analyst.
Morgan said his work with the Reds won't affect his job at ESPN, which has given him permission to be a guest occasionally on the team's broadcasts. Although it could be potentially awkward, given his role as television analyst, Morgan said his advisory role to Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is no different than what he does with other teams.
"If Walt wants to ask me something about a Reds player, I'll be glad to answer," Morgan said. "If you want to know the truth, I've been doing that with teams for 100 years. I have owners call me and ask me about players. I have at least three owners who call me and ask me about players quite often. I don't talk about other players, I talk about their players."
Morgan is the latest former Reds star to work with the ballclub. Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench has been a special consultant for years, and Eric Davis and Mario Soto work with players as special assistants. Ken Griffey Sr. also has been a special assistant in the player development department.
Morgan has appeared at Reds spring trainings. He recently called chief operating officer Phillip Castellini about a bigger and more defined role with the team, noting his interest in promoting baseball among minorities.
"This was a different kind of phone call that came from Joe, one that genuinely wanted to reach out and see what he could do to help the Cincinnati Reds," Castellini said.
Morgan has maintained ties to the city. He's currently building a car dealership in Cincinnati and plans to visit more often.
"It's not a full-time thing for me," Morgan said. "I guess you want to say it's a labor of love for me being involved in the community. This has kind of been my second home."
Morgan teared up and had to stop in mid-sentence for 20 seconds when talking about how he hopes his work in the community will make a difference.
"It's very easy to sit on television and say there are three teams that don't have any African-American players," Morgan said. "It's very easy to say on television there are 17 teams that have two or less. This allows me to try to do something about it. Obviously it's an emotional issue. I've been concerned about this for a long time."
Since Bob Castellini bought controlling interest in the team in 2005, he has tried to reconnect with former stars. Jocketty has tried to get them involved as well as part of his effort to dig the franchise out of nine straight losing seasons.
"I look forward to picking his brain about different situations, about different players," Jocketty said. "One of the things I've said from the very beginning is we're trying to change the culture here, trying to turn things back to the days of the Big Red Machine."