The Hank Aaron Invitational Is MLB’s Next Level Diversity Initiative

The top 44 players from the week-long camp, formerly known as EDI, will be invited to play in a special showcase game at SunTrust Park.

There were seven Elite Development Invitational alumni selected in the 2017 MLB Draft: Hunter Greene (2015 EDI, 1st round, CIN), Je’von Ward (2015 EDI, 12th round, MIL), Antoine Mistico (2016 EDI, 14th round, DET) Marlin Willis (2015 EDI, 18th round, KC) Cordell Dunn (2016 EDI, 19th round, TOR) R.J. Barnes (2016 EDI, 34th round, CIN) and Jose Garcia (2016 EDI, 38th round, BOS).

In 2018, that number spiked to 13 players, which further supports the analogy that EDI is a “field of dreams” for young players of color.

The dream has just been enhanced as Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), USA Baseball and the Atlanta Braves announced that the event has been re-branded  “Hank Aaron Invitational,” which will add new elements to the week-long baseball crash course.

 “The MLB/MLBPA/USA Baseball partnership is making a significant impact in the lives of these young men and we take great pride when participants from EDI receive college scholarships and have the opportunity to play at the professional level,” Del Matthews, MLB Sr. Director of Baseball & Softball Development, told The Shadow League.


MLB’s Elite Development Invitational has been a driving force in baseball’s organizational push to help increase the participation of African-Americans in the sport and provide talented kids of color from across the country opportunities to be coached and developed at the highest levels. The programs cover prohibitive costs, equipment, resources, facilities and elite coaching for kids, many who are from underserved neighborhoods.

Over the past three years, EDI has blossomed into a crown jewel of MLB’s diversity initiatives, producing, identifying, cultivating and attracting African-American talent on a high level. The Breakthrough Series does similar things.

The Hank Aaron Invitational consists of two weeks of baseball at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL and features 125 Players from 19 U.S. States. Week One is for players ages 15-17 and Week Two is for players ages 13-14.

 The camp is fittingly named after the greatest home run hitter in MLB history. It will continue to be a unique amateur development event designed as a free, youth-oriented, on-field diversity initiative that aims to get high school-age players, with diverse backgrounds, to the next levels of the game. It will be held in July and August at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fl. operated by MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball.

Approximately 250 players (ages 13-18) from across the United States will receive elite-level training from former Major League players and coaches.

Previous event instructors included former Major League manager Jerry Manuel and former All-Stars such as Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Tom “Flash” Gordon, Eric Davis, Marquis Grissom, Reggie Smith, Delino DeShields, among others. The players also will receive presentations on college eligibility and other information necessary for advancement in the collegiate and professional levels of the sport.

As a new element of the event in 2019, the top 44 players from the Hank Aaron Invitational will be invited to play in a special showcase game at SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves, as part of an extensive “Hank Aaron Week” hosted by the Braves. Hank Aaron Week will include a variety of diversity- and culture-focused initiatives focusing on business networking, nostalgic history connected to Aaron’s legacy, philanthropy, education, and social justice.

 “I’m humbled to have this program named in my honor and thrilled the showcase game will be played at SunTrust Park,” said Aaron. “I applaud MLB and the Braves in their efforts to continue to assist with outreach so that opportunities are available to all.”

The Hank Aaron Invitational currently has more than 100 alumni either playing professionally in Club Minor League systems or on the collegiate level. This equates to more than half of the participants who graduated high school in 2017 or 2018.

“Hank Aaron inspires courage, dignity, hard work and achievement, the very qualities we’re trying to instill in the young athletes we invite each summer to this one-of-a-kind event, where former players use their vast knowledge of the game and experience to serve as mentors for tomorrow’s players,” MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said. “If we teach young players about Hank Aaron and his legacy, they’ll be off to a great start.”

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