The Urban Invitational, the annual, round-robin collegiate baseball tournament designed to give Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their baseball programs national exposure, is relocating to Houston, Texas and will feature five HBCUs – the most-ever in the tournament’s five-year history. The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will be the primary site of the tournament on Friday, February 17th and Sunday, February 19th, while the games on Saturday, February 18th will be played at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. Two of those contests will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com.
HBCUs Alabama State University (Montgomery, Alabama), Grambling State University (Grambling, Louisiana), Southern University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas) and Texas Southern University (Houston, Texas) will all participate in the Urban Invitational along with NCAA Division-I school University of California, Irvine.
“We are thrilled to be working with the Houston Astros in bringing these six outstanding programs to Houston for this year’s Urban Invitational,” said Jimmie Lee Solomon, Executive Vice President, Baseball Development, Major League Baseball. “Through this event, Major League Baseball strives to bring much needed exposure to these individual institutions and attention to collegiate baseball programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Additionally, we are very pleased to give local high school students the opportunity to learn more about higher education directly from the more than 20 colleges and universities at the college fair. This will be a great experience for all involved, especially these young men playing in a beautiful ballpark such as Minute Maid Park.”
“The Houston Astros are extremely excited about hosting the Urban Invitational in Houston this year,” said Daryl Wade, Manager of the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy. “This event gives the organization a chance to reach out to inner-city high school youth with a message that seeking education after high school is attainable for anyone. The high quality of baseball, music and schools, at our college fair over the weekend, should give these students the idea that there are many routes that can be taken to reach that next step in their lives. Whether it’s through baseball, music, academics or all three, these kids have a chance, and we’re happy to support such a cause.”
As an additional aspect of the Urban Invitational weekend activities, MLB and the Houston Astros will host a college fair at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, February 18th beginning at 11:00 a.m. CT. More than 20 colleges and universities will be represented and will provide information about college preparation, undergraduate and graduate degree programs, financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
Beginning at 3:00 p.m. CT (4:00 p.m. ET), the games at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, February 18th will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com, with play-by-play from Greg Amsinger and analysis from two-time MLB All-Star Harold Reynolds. In between these contests, fans at Minute Maid Park will be entertained in a collegiate “battle of the bands,” with live performances from Southern University’s “Human Jukebox,” Texas Southern University’s “Ocean of Soul” and Prairie View A&M University’s “Marching Storm.”
Tickets to the games and events at Minute Maid Park will be available to the general public for $5.00, and parking for Minute Maid Park is also available for $5.00. There is a special ticket package available for $10.00, which will allow access to the ballpark and provide a concession voucher for a hot dog and soda. High School students and below with a valid student ID will be admitted to the ballpark for free. Games at the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will be available on game day for a suggested $5.00 donation. Children 12 and under, and any student 18 and under with a valid student ID, will be admitted free. All proceeds from the ticket donations at the Academy will benefit the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Foundation, which is a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation.
Games and Entertainment Schedule (all times Central):
Friday, February 17, Southern University vs. Prairie View A&M University, 11:00 a.m. at Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park
Friday, February 17, University of California, Irvine vs. Alabama State University, 2:30 p.m. at Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park
Friday, February 17, Grambling State University vs. Texas Southern University, 6:00 p.m. at Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park
Saturday, February 18, Alabama State University vs. Grambling State University, 11:00 a.m. at Minute Maid Park
Saturday, February 18, University of California, Irvine vs. Southern University, 3:00 p.m. at Minute Maid Park – LIVE on MLB Network and MLB.com
Saturday, February 18, Texas Southern University vs. Prairie View A&M University, 7:00 p.m. at Minute Maid Park – LIVE on MLB Network and MLB.com
Sunday, February 19, University of California, Irvine vs. Texas Southern University, 11:00 a.m. at Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park
Sunday, February 19, Alabama State University vs. Southern University, 2:30 p.m. at Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park
Sunday, February 19, Grambling State vs. Prairie View A&M University, 5:30 p.m. at Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park
Major League Baseball is committed to addressing the issue of African-American participation in professional baseball through its various community and multicultural programs. With the three MLB Urban Youth Academies operating in Compton, California, Houston, Texas, and Gurabo, Puerto Rico; one under construction in New Orleans, Louisiana; two others announced in Hialeah, Florida and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and additional soon-to-be announced facilities, MLB has continued to pledge resources to bringing America’s pastime to young people in urban communities.
HBCUs have long offered quality educational and athletic programs and have a proud tradition of outstanding baseball players. Baseball Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Andre Dawson, as well as current Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, played in HBCU baseball programs. Thirteen HBCU players were selected in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, six of whom played in last year’s Urban Invitational in Compton. Through the annual Urban Invitational, MLB aims to help these programs continue providing young players from underserved communities the opportunity to play collegiate-level baseball.
In just its first year, the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy has registered approximately 700 young athletes, conducted ten one-day baseball clinics and five week-long summer day camps, and currently provides daily Major League-style instruction. The Academy has hosted 150 games including NCAA, high school, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and Jr. RBI contests. The Academy also offers off-field and academic opportunities, and this spring provided students with Texas Assessment of Skills tutorials in advance of area-wide testing. In addition to baseball and softball instruction, boys and girls attending the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park can participate in free seminars on umpiring, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics, as well as athletic sports training. Information about the Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy is available at Astros.com/uya or by calling 281-960-9166.