For the second year in a row, Major League Baseball is taking a page out of the NFL and NBA playbook book with its own version of a professional prospect draft combine. This year, the multi-day event will be held at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.
The baseball combine, which will be televised live on MLB Network starting Friday, more than 255 players will be given the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of general managers and scouting directors in games and drills.
Players in the top 300 of draft-eligible prospects — from a pool of college and high school athletes — will attend. A notable and significant absence is the lack of HBCU baseball players in San Diego.
In fact, it’s the second consecutive year since the creation of the combine that not a single Black college baseball player was invited to participate in the event. In 2021, none of the 167 players who were in Raleigh, North Carolina represented an HBCU.
This development does not align with MLB’s intentional partnerships with HBCU baseball programs. For example, the Andre Dawson Classic (formerly the Urban Invitational) a round-robin collegiate baseball tournament designed by Major League Baseball, was put together to highlight Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their baseball programs.
Coppin State’s baseball program in April teamed with the Baltimore Orioles and MLB to host a community event. This year’s event was originally scheduled to be featured at least a dozen HBCUs across the country prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to David James, Major League Baseball’s vice president for baseball and softball development.
While current HBCU baseball players will be participating in MLB-backed summer league organizations, including the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the Appalachian League and the MLB Draft League in the coming months, the absence of HBCU players at the combine is hard to explain.
It isn’t as if HBCU clubs feature a dearth of talent, either. Prior to the start of the 2022 regular season, Jackson State’s Ty Hill was one of many Division I players named to the Golden Spikes Award watch list, an honor once won by former Southern infielder Rickie Weeks as the nation’s top amateur baseball player.
Shemar Page, Grambling’s stud pitcher and hitter, was named a Division I Second-Team All-American. Jordan Hamberg, Coppin State’s NCAA Tournament Game 1 starter, was named a national finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award, which recognizes the best dual-position player in America.
If MLB wants to continue to grow the sport among African Americans, those inside the game must make an intentional effort to showcase HBCU baseball talent in the same way the NFL did for HBCU football players.
There should be HBCU players in San Diego this weekend and granted the same opportunities to workout in front of scouts and team executives as all the other diamond prodigies.