By Menra Mapfumo | NNPA - BLACKPRESSUSA.COM
On June 3, Truist Park hosted the 2022 Minority Baseball Prospects HBCU All-Star Game, headed by the Minority Baseball Prospects organization (MBP).
MBP invited 60 players from 57 different HBCUs to compete against one another, but to also have fun.
Former MLB Players, college and university coaches, instructors, and fans were all in attendance to support the HBCU players. Before the game everyone was open to answering some questions regarding the MBP organization and minorities in baseball.
Baseball coach Roberto Alonso Jr. was in attendance to support one of his own players, Jose Santiago, a pitcher from Savannah State.
“I was at Florida Memorial for five years, it’s a privilege,” Coach Alonso commented on his experience coaching minority players and his relationships with them.
HBCU All Star Players Joseph Smith (Savannah State) and Casey Coates (Morehouse College) spoke on what it means to be a minority baseball prospect and the opportunities the organization has created for them both.
“I love this opportunity. A lot of African American people don’t really get the exposure and experience to do stuff like this so it’s a once in a lifetime dream.” Smith said.
Coates added, “It’s a dream at first, but also proves that we, just like other people who aren’t minorities, can do what they do as well. We’re just as talented as they are.”
HBCU All Star Players Malik Bell (Albany State University) and Lavoisier Fisher (Albany State) expressed how it felt to represent their HBCU and minorities in the game of baseball.
“It’s awesome because at Albany State it feels like we put our school on the map. Albany State is in a small town in South Georgia. Not a lot of people there, not a lot to do. For somebody else outside of Albany State to notice our efforts and hard work we put in during the season… I like that,” Bell said.
“To piggyback off that, Albany State is a smaller school, we get to come out, perform, show exactly what our coach has been teaching us and it’s going to be lit. It’s going to be a fun experience out there,” Fisher added.
An assistant baseball coach at Stillman College, Rashad Webster, spoke on whether there is pressure on African-Americans to make it to the MLB.
“I wouldn’t say pressure, but I think there is more fire inside of these gentlemen to make it to the next level because everybody wants to be the next pioneer when it comes to the game of baseball,” Coach Webster said. “Especially being an African-American in this game, it takes a pioneer to be able to make a change within the game and open those flood gates so our African-American youth can flow into the game of baseball.”
Coach Webster described what it was like coming up as minority baseball players.
“A lot of trials and tribulations come with being a minority baseball player. Whether that be on the field or off the field, there’s a lot of things that you have to handle mentally before you get out on this baseball field. A ton of struggle comes with being a minority baseball player…”
“If we continue to build the HBCU schools and help them with the funding that is needed to promote baseball, get these kids more acclimated, more educated on a baseball diamond instead of on a street corner, we’re going to have a lot more success stories…”
Former major league baseball pitcher Marvin Freeman enjoyed the day.
“I went to an HBCU and I have always said it is not where you’re at it’s how you play. Baseball is going to be baseball… If your athletic ability matches up with your skillset and you’re able to excel at whatever venue you’re in, scouts are out there to notice you,” Freeman said.
“HBCUs are not as funded as some of the other larger schools, but we still have some of the best talent in the country and hopefully these guys will get an opportunity to show that they compete on whatever level they are on.”
Former professional player Lenny Webster added, “I think it has been tough. The numbers have declined in Major League Baseball as far as Black players are concerned, but I think the initiative that Major League Baseball started about five or six years ago, you’re starting to see a dent in that and you’re starting to see an influx of young Black talent coming back into the Major Leagues,” he said. “I think that the Major League Baseball Dream Series, the Breakthrough Series, the Hank Aaron Invitationals, we get a chance to put our hands on our kids at a young age and it’s obviously begging to show as they get older…”
“I think HBCUs can play a huge role… just simply with activities and events like [the HBCU Allstar game] being done and the job a lot of African-American coaches at these colleges and institutions do has been superb when it comes to raising these young men properly on and off the field,” he said. “I think in the next 10 years you’ll probably see a huge influx of African-American baseball players flowing through the minors and making their way into the MLB.”