MLB Network will air Urban Invitational

MLB Network will air Urban Invitational

COMPTON, Calif. -- For Historically Black Colleges and Universities, it can often be difficult to garner national exposure, especially since these schools don't play in any of college baseball's power conferences.

But the Urban Invitational tournament presented by the U.S. Army Academy helps remedy that problem, as it gives exposure to such schools as Bethune-Cookman and Southern University through its three-day event at the MLB Urban Youth Academy.

That will certainly be evident on Saturday, with MLB Network broadcasting Cal State Northridge's game against Southern University live at 5 p.m. ET and UCLA's game against Bethune-Cookman live at 9 p.m. ET. Victor Rojas will provide the play-by-play along with analysis from Harold Reynolds, and both games will also be streamed live on MLB.com.

"The Urban Invitational presented by the U.S. Army is a key initiative in our effort to provide opportunities to young people in urban communities," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. "We are very grateful to these baseball programs for allowing their student-athletes to participate in our tournament at the MLB Urban Youth Academy, and we are fortunate to have a partner in the United States Army that believes in our mission to provide these young men the national exposure they need."

It's also expected to be a star-studded day, with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Lou Brock scheduled to throw out the first pitch before the first game of the day, along with former MVP and Cy Young Award winner Don Newcombe and former All-Star Al Downing.

In addition, for the first time in the event's history, the U.S. Army will sponsor an MVP Award for both games on Saturday, with academy director Darrell Miller, Col. Victor Petrenko, Command Sgt. Major Victor Rivera and Solomon on hand to present the awards.

"We are pleased to partner with Major League Baseball and the Urban Youth Academy to help encourage youth to participate in activities that will help keep them mentally, emotionally and physically strong," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commanding general, U.S. Army Accessions Command. "We share Major League Baseball's goal of helping urban youth explore all the opportunities available to them that will lead to success in life."

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with a high school "Battle of the Bands" featuring Compton High School, Crenshaw High School and Dominguez High School before the academy puts on a clinic for local Little Leaguers and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.

The academy will also host a college fair for the third consecutive year on Saturday, with more than 20 colleges and universities providing information to parents and young adults regarding college preparation, undergraduate and graduate programs, and financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Saxophonist BK Jackson will kick off the first game by performing the national anthem before Northridge and Southern face off at the Urban Youth Academy.

This is be the third consecutive year that Southern will appear in the tournament, whereas Northridge is making its debut.

"On behalf of Southern University, we are proud to once again be playing in the Urban Invitational," coach Roger Cador said. "This is our third time playing in this magnificent event, which helps expose our inner-city youth and our minority youth around the country, with the help and resources of Major League Baseball, to this great game."

Northridge, which won its opener over Bethune-Cookman with an 18-4 rout on Friday, is thrilled to be playing in the tournament for the first time.

"This is fabulous," Northridge coach Steve Rousey said. "With [MLB Network] involved, there's a bigness that, frankly, is a little bit beyond what you get week in and week out in college baseball on our coast. So it's cool, and for us it's not a road game, because it's neutral. It's a great deal. We hope to be invited back next year."

One of the most anticipated events of the day will take place in between the two games, as there will be a battle of the bands between Southern University's "Human Jukebox" and Bethune-Cookman's "Marching Wildcats."

After their performance, the 82nd "All-American" Division Chorus from Fort Bragg, N.C., will sing the national anthem before Petrenko throws out the ceremonial first pitch.

Just like Southern, it's also Bethune-Cookman's third appearance in the tournament, and its coach, Mervyl Melendez, praised Major League Baseball for putting on the event.

"Major League Baseball has done a great job since the beginning putting these games together," Melendez said. "For us to be the first nationally televised game every year, it's a special feeling for all our guys and is a testimony to everyone involved."

Meanwhile, UCLA is making its second appearance, as it played in the inaugural tournament two years ago, along with USC.

"We had a great experience playing at the Urban Youth Academy on national television in 2008 and are excited to be back this year," UCLA coach John Savage said. "The Urban Youth Academy is a tremendous facility and asset to the community."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.