Games Played at the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy on February 20th
Will Air LIVE on Both MLB Network and MLB.com
MLB will Honor the Memory of the Late Darryl Hamilton with
Special "Player of the Game" Recognition After Each Urban Invitational Game
Ancillary Activities at the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy on Saturday to Include
Youth Baseball Clinic, PLAY BALL Event and a Scotts® MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Competition
Major League Baseball's Urban Invitational is returning to New Orleans for the third consecutive year, with games being held at the University of New Orleans and the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy (MLBUYA) from Friday, February 19th through Sunday, February 21st. Launched by Major League Baseball in 2008, the round-robin collegiate baseball tournament is designed to place a spotlight on Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and their baseball programs.
Four HBCUs will compete in this year's Urban Invitational, including Grambling State University (Grambling, Louisiana), Southern University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Alcorn State University (Alcorn, Mississippi) and Prairie View A&M (Prairie View, Texas). They will be joined by University of New Orleans and Louisiana Tech University, which will be making its tournament debut, in playing nine games over three days. The University of New Orleans will share hosting duties with the New Orleans MLBUYA in Pontchartrain Park. This will be Southern University's ninth Urban Invitational, making them the only school to have participated in every tournament. Grambling State will make its fifth appearance, the University of New Orleans will make its third appearance and Alcorn State University will be making its second appearance.
"We are very pleased to bring the Urban Invitational back to New Orleans," said Tony Reagins, MLB Senior Vice President of Youth Programs. "The city has provided us with a great platform to highlight the talent found in HBCU baseball programs in the region and also what our Urban Youth Academy has to offer the young people of Southern Louisiana. Collegiate Baseball is a terrific option for student-athletes to get an education and prepare them for the next levels of baseball, and we look forward to showcasing that through this event and the exposure provided by MLB Network and MLB.com."
Saturday's match-ups at the New Orleans MLBUYA between Louisiana Tech University and Southern University at 2:00 p.m. CT and Grambling University and University of New Orleans at 6:00 p.m. CT, will air LIVE on both MLB Network and MLB.com. The broadcast will feature play-by-play from Paul Severino and analysis from former All-Star outfielder Cliff Floyd.
In a special tribute to the late Darryl Hamilton, who was a Baton Rouge native and called the 2015 Urban Invitational for MLB Network, Major League Baseball will name a "Darryl Hamilton Player of the Game" after each Urban Invitational contest.
In addition to tournament play, the New Orleans MLBUYA will host three youth-focused events on Saturday, February 20th beginning at 9:00 a.m., including a private youth baseball clinic, a PLAY BALL event and a Scotts® MLB Pitch, Hit and Run competition. The clinic will have players from each of the participating Urban Invitational teams serving as instructors to Urban Youth Academy (UYA) participants and kids from local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs. The PLAY BALL event will take place at 12:30 p.m., followed by the local Scotts® MLB Pitch, Hit and Run competition at 3:00 p.m.
Former Major Leaguers, including All-Star reliever Lee Smith and Jerry Manuel (who is also a Youth Programs Consultant for MLB), will attend various portions of the Urban Invitational, particularly the youth events throughout Saturday.
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. Since 2008, the year of the inaugural Urban Invitational, more than 25 HBCU athletes who have played in the tournament have been selected in the MLB Draft. Three tournament alumni were taken in the 2015 Draft, including Earl Burl III from Alcorn State University, who was also the first player to be drafted out of the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy. Lance Jones from Southern University and Edwin Drexler of Grambling State were also selected.
MLB's youth initiatives are on display in this tournament as 19 players on this year's rosters are alumni of Urban Youth Academies, RBI programs or Breakthrough Series participants. For Southern University, four players attended the Urban Youth Academies in New Orleans and Compton (California), seven were a part of RBI programs (Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, New York City and Washington, D.C.) and another participated in a previous Breakthrough Series event. Prairie View A&M has three players, Nick Gurka, Shannon Washington, Joshua Wells, who are alumni of the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy and Astros RBI. Alcorn State has four players - Carlos Kelly, Larry Cowart, Robert Fletcher and Devonte Thomson - who are alumni of the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy.
Major League Baseball is dedicated to its ongoing diversity efforts, including the implementation of programs that make it easier for underserved and inner city youth to participate in baseball and softball. With six operating Urban Youth Academies in Cincinnati (Ohio), Compton (California), Houston (Texas), New Orleans (Louisiana), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Washington D.C., plus three Urban Youth Academies in development in Dallas (Texas), Kansas City (Missouri) and San Francisco (California), MLB has continued to allot resources to bring America's pastime to young people in urban communities.