Four HBCUs to compete in the 10th annual Urban Invitational at the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy

Wearing Negro League Throwback Uniforms: Southern University Jaguar Rickie Weeks (right) is congratulated by Head Coach Roger Cador (left) while running past third base after hitting a 3-run homerun.

With respect to Black History Month, the throwback negroe league uniforms will be worn this weekend in New Orleans.

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.

The games played by the four HBCU teams on Saturday, February 18th will air LIVE from the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy on MLB Network and MLB.com, with play-by-play from Scott Braun and analysis from former All-Star Outfielder Cliff Floyd. Southern University will wear Negro League uniforms in commemoration of Black History Month. Below is the tournament schedule:
Date, Time, Teams, Location

Feb. 17, 11:00a.m., UIC vs. Prairie View A&M, New Orleans MLBYA
Feb. 17, 2:00p.m., UIC vs. Prairie View A&M, New Orleans MLBYA
Feb. 17, 5:00p.m., Grambling State vs. Alcorn State, New Orleans MLBYA
Feb. 17, 6:00p.m., Southern vs. UNO, University of New Orleans

Date, Time, Teams, Location

Feb. 18, 1:00p.m., UIC vs. UNO, University of New Orleans
Feb. 18, 2:00p.m.*, Alcorn State vs. Prairie View A&M, New Orleans MLBYA
Feb. 18, 6:00p.m.*, Grambling State vs. Southern, New Orleans MLBYA

Date, Time, Teams, Location

Feb. 19, 12:00p.m., UIC vs. Grambling State, New Orleans MLBYA
Feb. 19, 1:00p.m., Prairie View A&M vs. UNO, University of New Orleans
Feb. 19, 3:00p.m., Alcorn State vs. Southern, New Orleans MLBYA

*These games will air LIVE on MLB Network and MLB.com.

In addition to tournament play, the New Orleans MLBYA will host youth-focused events before games on Saturday, February 18th. A PLAY BALL event will take place at 11:30 a.m., followed by regional trials for the Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit and Run and the Jr. Home Run Derby skills competitions beginning at approximately 3:00 p.m. The PLAY BALL initiative is proudly supported by MLB sponsors Chevrolet and Scotts.

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.

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. Southern University has two other RBI alumni in J’Markus George (Atlanta Metro RBI) and Niko Hayes-Saltare (Miami Marlins RBI). The Breakthrough Series will have eight total alumni, with three coming out of Southern University, three out of Prairie View, one out of Alcorn State and one player out of Grambling State.

About the author

DionNorman

Dion Norman is a professional music artist/journalist from Louisiana. Norman is an urban music enthusiast and has been writing since the mid 90s. He is also a stakeholder in the newly found New Orleans Union For Entertainment which is a new resource provider for New Orleans artists and businesses as well as a collective. For more information, feel free to email him at itsdevious@yahoo.com