ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Major League Baseball equaled its best grades for racial and gender diversity hiring, even as the percentage of black players dropped again last year.

MLB received an A for race and a B for gender hiring in the annual study released Thursday by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. Baseball received the same grades in last year's report.

Among major leaguers, though, the number of black players dropped from 10.2 percent to 9 percent last season. The sport had made a small stride since reaching a low of 8.2 percent in 2007, but the latest data indicates a steady rise among black players might be years away.

Information in the report is based on the 2009 work force data provided by MLB.

"I think it's a reflection now of the long-standing fact that African-American youths are playing basketball and football more than baseball," Institute director Richard Lapchick said. "It's ironic only because the role of people of color running baseball is dramatically increasing."

A dwindling number of black players has been a concern of baseball and those in the black community for years. Last year's report was the first time since 1995 that the majors had an increase among black players.

In an effort to curb the numbers, MLB has established its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and urban youth academies. But Lapchick said it will likely take many years before it's known if those efforts are paying off.

"I think it's going to take a generation of young kids to change that," he said.

MLB said in a statement that it was proud of the high marks for its diversity in hiring.

"Major League Baseball is pleased that the 2010 Lapchick study reflects our institutional commitment, led by Commissioner Selig, to sound hiring practices and diverse participation at all levels of our game," spokesman Pat Courtney said.

Twenty-seven percent of the players in the majors were Latino and 2.3 percent were Asian, the report showed. MLB had four black, four Latino and one Asian manager last season. That's one fewer black manager than a year ago.

MLB's central offices received an A-plus for race and an A for gender. About 31 percent of employees at baseball's central offices were nonwhite, and women made up 39 percent of the total work force, the report showed.

Baseball received a B-plus for general managers and senior team professionals. There has never been a female general manager, and there are relatively few high-ranking women in baseball operations. Assistant general managers Kim Ng of the Dodgers and Jean Afterman of the Yankees have been the exceptions.

Lapchick has long suggested that MLB institute a rule that a woman be considered for all senior job openings, similar to the rule that minority candidates must be interviewed.

"But baseball is clearly ahead of most major men's professional leagues in diversity, with the exception of the NBA," Lapchick said. "And baseball is light years ahead of when I started doing the reports in 1987."