Major League Baseball continues its growing initiative to highlight Historically Black Colleges and Universities with the announcement of two Black college baseball classics.
The first is the Cactus Jack Classic hosted by the World Series champion Houston Astros in partnership between the Astros Foundation and the Cactus Jack Foundation founded by rapper Travis Scott.
“I am excited to partner with my hometown team, the world champion Houston Astros, to showcase the top-tier talents of HBCU student-athletes,” said Scott in a statement. “Supporting HBCUs are an integral part of my family’s history and present. I want to thank the Astros organization for their commitment to giving HBCU teams the opportunity to compete at one of the best stadiums in the world.”
The Cactus Jack Classic is a tournament that will feature six HBCUs to be held on February 17-19.
Teams set to play in the tournament include Grambling State, Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View A&M, Southern, and Texas Southern.
In addition to the games, there will also be a college fair featuring over 100 HBCUs at Minute Maid Park.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to growing the game of baseball and softball for youth and the next generation of players, we are thrilled to partner with these exceptional schools to highlight their baseball programs and give their athletes a chance to compete at Minute Maid Park,” said Paula Harris the Senior vice president of community affairs and executive director of the Astros Foundation.
Also, MLB has announced the launch of the “HBCU Swingman Classic,” an annual All-Star Game for HBCU baseball players at the Division I level.
This game is partnered by the MLB, the MLB Players Association’s Youth Development Foundation, and Hall of Fame centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr.
“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.”
While a specific date has not been announced for the inaugural Swingman Classic, it is expected to be played during 2023 MLB All-Star week from July 7-11.
The game will take place at T-Mobile Park in Seattle where Griffey played 13 years as a member of the Seattle Mariners.
There will be 50 players selected to play in the game by representatives from the MLB and MLBPA, scouts, and Griffey himself.
“I am excited to help these kids get the national attention that they don’t receive compared to other college baseball programs,” said Griffey. “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 comparable 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.”