Major League Baseball (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. jointly announced Tuesday the launch of the “HBCU Swingman Classic,” an annual All-Star experience for baseball student-athletes from Division-I programs at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU). The philanthropic & educational event, which will center around an “All-Star” Game, will be held during 2023 MLB All-Star Week in July at T-Mobile Park, home of the Seattle Mariners, the franchise for which Griffey Jr. played for 13 seasons during his legendary career.
The HBCU Swingman Classic, which will be powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, will highlight the history and legacy of HBCU baseball programs while also providing 50 HBCU baseball players with the opportunity to showcase their talent on a national stage. The student-athletes will be selected by a committee that will include Griffey Jr., representatives from MLB and MLBPA, and scouts. Additional details about the HBCU Swingman Classic will be announced in the months ahead.
Griffey Jr., who is an Ambassador for the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, said: “I am excited to help these kids get the national attention that they don’t receive compared to other college baseball programs. Over the years, we have seen the decline of African American players, not because they don’t want to play, but rather because they haven’t been seen. College scholarships for baseball are not comparative to other sports, and a lot of families cannot afford to pay the difference. So, this effort is the industry coming together to give these kids an opportunity to play the game they love on the national stage. Financial restrictions prevent them from going to schools that give more exposure. The HBCU Swingman Classic will try and close that gap.”
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to continue to work alongside Ken Griffey Jr. and the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation to bring this groundbreaking event to MLB All-Star Week,” said Tony Reagins, Chief Baseball Development Officer, MLB. “Highlighting the talent at HBCU Baseball programs is an important part of how we connect with college baseball while also improving African American representation at all levels of our game. We are excited to offer this opportunity to these players and for our fans to witness this new All-Star experience.”
“Players believe that creating opportunities to showcase underserved Black baseball talent will result in a more competitive and exciting game in years to come,” said MLBPA Senior Director, International and Domestic Player Operations Leonor Colon. “The Midsummer Classic can become an important vehicle to achieve that goal.”
“As the industry’s joint foundation, we are proud to create and invest in new opportunities to level the playing field and ensure that a family’s financial means isn’t a defining limit to having their youth play baseball,” said Jean Lee Batrus, MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Executive Director. “Our friend, Ken Griffey Jr., has been a tireless ambassador helping us achieve our organization’s goals. We are excited to launch the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic as a unique and innovative experience to highlight African American talent on a national stage and encourage finding solutions to improving college scholarships for baseball.”
MLB All-Star Week in 2023 will be hosted by the Mariners in Seattle from Friday, July 7th through Tuesday, July 11th. The HBCU Swingman Classic is the latest major event added to the schedule of the annual Midsummer Classic, joining the MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, the Sirius-XM All-Star Futures Game, All-Star Celebrity Softball Game, the MLB Draft, the High School All-American Game and a series of youth & fan engagement activities.
The HBCU Swingman Classic joins the annual Hank Aaron Invitational as youth-oriented and diversity-focused programs powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, a joint initiative by MLB and MLBPA to support efforts that focus on improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and internationally.
Historically, many HBCU alumni have reached Major League Baseball, including Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Lou Brock as well as Marquis Grissom, Rickie Weeks, Jr., Vince Coleman, Tommie Agee, Tom Alston, Earl Battey, Joe Black and others. Hall of Famer Larry Doby is also an HBCU alumnus, but did not play baseball at the collegiate level.