The future of black baseball hits the field at New Orleans MLB Youth Academy
Four Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) will compete at the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy (MLBYA) in the 10th annual Urban Invitational, which is being hosted in New Orleans for the fourth consecutive year from Friday, February 17th to Sunday, February 19th.
Alcorn State University (Alcorn, Mississippi), Grambling State University (Grambling, Louisiana), Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas), and Southern University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) are returning to Major League Baseball’s round-robin collegiate baseball tournament designed to highlight HBCUs and their baseball programs.
This will be Southern University’s 10th Urban Invitational, making them the only school to have participated in every tournament. Grambling State will make its sixth appearance, with both Prairie View A&M and Alcorn State University making their third appearance each.
The four HBCU teams will be joined by teams from the University of New Orleans and the University Illinois at Chicago, which will be making its tournament debut, with additional games throughout the weekend being played at Maestri Field at Privateer Park, the home of the University of New Orleans baseball team. These games will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Southern University will wear Negro League uniforms in commemoration of Black History Month.
In addition to tournament play, the New Orleans MLBYA will host youth-focused events before games.
Former Major Leaguers, including pitcher Marvin Freeman, catcher Lenny Webster and manager Jerry Manuel, as well as Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims, will attend various portions of the Urban Invitational, particularly the youth events throughout Saturday. Freeman (Jackson State) and Webster (Grambling State) are both HBCU alums. Manuel is a Youth Programs Consultant for MLB.
(Photo Credit: mlb.com)
HBCUs have long offered quality educational and athletic programs and have a proud tradition of attracting outstanding baseball players. Baseball Hall of Famers Lou Brock (Southern University) and Andre Dawson (Florida A&M) played in HBCU baseball programs. In 2015, Earl Burl III, who played for Alcorn State University and was the first player to be drafted out of the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy, was selected. During the 2016 Draft, Tyree Thompson, became the second player to be drafted out of the New Orleans Academy.
MLB’s youth initiatives will be well-represented at the 2017 Urban Invitational as 12 players on this year’s rosters are alumni of MLB Youth Academies, RBI programs or MLB Development Camps, such as the Breakthrough Series.
At least one White Sox A.C.E and RBI program alumni will be represented on each HBCU team in the tournament, six of whom have participated in the Breakthrough Series (BTS): Tyler Laux (BTS), Tyler Gordon (BTS), and Andrew Garcia (BTS) from Prairie View A&M; Reggie Johnson (BTS) and Robert Fletcher II (BTS) from Alcorn State; Marshawn Taylor (BTS) and Nick Wheeler from Grambling State; and Justin Freeman, son of Marvin Freeman, from Southern University.
Back in 2015, The Shadow League did an extensive piece on the relationship between MLB, black baseball and the Urban Invitational’s importance to promoting diversity in baseball and preserving the historical significance of African-American participation in the game. Check it out.