‘Diverse Youth Are Thriving In Baseball And Making An Impact’ | The Andre Dawson Classic Balancing MLB Diversity Scales

(Photo: MLB Develops)

In honor of Black History Month, Major League Baseball and the Urban Edge Network will produce the Andre Dawson Classic this weekend (Feb.17-20).

The HBCU baseball tournament will showcase two games:

Jackson State University vs. Southern University (1 p.m. CT) and Florida A&M University vs. Alabama State University (6 p.m. CT).

The games will be streamed via the HBCU League Pass+, a free streaming service for HBCU college sports fans. In addition, the games will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com. Former MLB player and coach Bo Porter will be the analyst on the call.

MLB Diversity

It’s exciting to see the fruits of our labor with such a significant increase of diverse participants from MLB baseball development programs at HBCUs,” Del Matthews, MLB vice president of Baseball Development, told The Shadow League.
“It’s greater evidence that diverse youth are thriving in baseball and making an impact at the collegiate level when given the opportunity, said Matthews, who is also the son of former MLB great Gary Matthews.

More than 30 HBCU players have become MLB draft picks from the Dawson Classic. The Andre Dawson Classic happens in February at the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy at Wesley Barrow Stadium and University of New Orleans’ Ron Maestri Field, in celebration of Black History Month.

Respecting The HBCU Talent Pool

The annual round-robin collegiate baseball tournament was originally known as “The Urban Invitational” when it was launched in 2008, by Major League Baseball to highlight Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their programs.

“We formed a partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to refocus the world on the black men  and women’s passion and history with the sport,” said Todd F. Brown, CEO & co-founder of Urban Edge Network. “More than 30 percent of the Negro Leagues Baseball players hailed from HBCUs and many of the games were played on HBCU campuses.
“Similar to that partnership, we know that through this relationship we can begin to help fill the pipeline with black talent on the field, in coaching, and in front offices while renewing black audiences’ engagement with their heritage in the sport.”

Black History Month In Focus: Andre Dawson Classic Showcases HBCU Talent

In Memoriam

Formerly known as the Urban Invitational, the event was renamed in honor of Andre Dawson — the Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos legend who is one of only two HBCU Baseball alumni enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Happy Birthday Andre Dawson, One Of MLB’s Greatest Black Knights

Dawson, one of five MLB players to hit at least 400 home runs (438) and steal 300 bases (314), played at FAMU from 1972-75. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Among the eight Andre Dawson Classic teams, 53 are alumni from diversity-focused youth baseball programs run in cooperation with Major League Baseball (Dream Series, Breakthrough Series, Hank Aaron Invitational)

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30 are alumni from the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs based in the U.S, Puerto Rico and Curacao – including several who competed in the RBI World Series international championship tournament.

19 ADC participants are alumni from MLB Youth Academies in Houston and New Orleans.

Numbers Soaring: MLB Programs Working

This is a 112 percent increase from the last Andre Dawson Classic held in February 2020.

Among the participating teams are Alabama State University (sixth appearance), Florida A&M University (second appearance), Grambling State University (10th appearance), Jackson State University (first appearance), Prairie View (seventh appearance), Southern University (14th appearance), the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (fourth appearance), and University of New Orleans (eighth appearance) for the non-HBCU.

With more attention being paid to HBCU athletics, baseball has been engaged with that section of the collegiate market for years through the Andre Dawson Classic.

Although HBCUs aren’t traditionally considered breeding grounds for elite baseball players, tournaments like the Andre Dawson Classic are changing the narrative and producing elite domains miners. There will be many Black athletes who can pick, blast, pitch and gun it at extreme levels.

The growth has been evident in the 12-years that the tournament has existed. Another example of MLB’s efforts to shine a light on Black baseball talent, provide opportunities for those players to be seen and continue to flood the pipeline.

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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.