By Menra Mapfumo
On June 3, Truist Park hosted the 2022 Minority Baseball Prospects HBCU All-Star Game, headed by the Minority Baseball Prospects organization (MBP).
MBP invited 60 players from 57 different HBCUs to compete against one another, but to also have fun.
Former MLB Players, college and university coaches, instructors, and fans were all in attendance to support the HBCU players. Before the game everyone was open to answering some questions regarding the MBP organization and minorities in baseball.
Baseball coach Roberto Alonso Jr. was in attendance to support one of his own players, Jose Santiago, a pitcher from Savannah State.
Coach Alonso Jr. commented on his experience coaching minority players and his relationships with them.
Coach Alonso Jr. said, “I was at Florida Memorial for five years, it’s a privilege.”
HBCU All Star Players Joseph Smith (Savannah State) and Casey Coates (Morehouse College) spoke on what it means to be a minority baseball prospect and the opportunities the organization has created for them both.
Smith said, “I love this opportunity. A lot of African American people don’t really get the exposure and experience to do stuff like this so it’s a once in a lifetime dream.”
Coates said, “It’s a dream at first, but also proves that we, just like other people who aren’t minorities, can do what they do as well. We’re just as talented as they are.”
HBCU All Star Players Malik Bell (Albany State University) and Lavoisier Fisher (Albany State) expressed how it felt to represent their HBCU and minorities in the game of baseball.
Bell said, “It’s awesome because at Albany State it feels like we put our school on the map. Albany State is in a small town in South Georgia. Not a lot of people there, not a lot to do. For somebody else outside of Albany State to notice our efforts and hard work we put in during the season… I like that.”
Fisher said, “To piggyback off that, Albany State is a smaller school, we get to come out, perform, show exactly what our coach has been teaching us and it’s going to be lit. It’s going to be a fun experience out there.”
Assistant baseball coach of Stillman College, Rashad Webster spoke on whether there is pressure on African Americans to make it to the MLB.
Coach Webster said, “I wouldn’t say pressure, but I think there is more fire inside of these gentlemen to make it to the next level because everybody wants to be the next pioneer when it comes to the game of baseball. Especially being an African American in this game, it takes a pioneer to be able to make a change within the game and open those flood gates so our African American youth can flow into the game of baseball.”
Hitting coordinator AP and coach Webster described what it was like coming up as minority baseball players.
AP said, “I’m not going to pretend like there weren’t any issues as far as when I was off the field… I can say for not myself personally, but certain things I have seen, it’s a longer road sometimes.”
Coach Webster “A lot of trials and tribulations come with being a minority baseball player. Whether that be on the field or off the field there’s a lot of things that you have to handle mentally before you get out on this baseball field. A ton of struggle comes with being a minority baseball player…”
Coach Alonso Jr., former MLB players Lenny Webster and Marvin Freeman, AP, and Coach Rashad Webster expressed what they think the future holds for minorities in the MLB and the roles HBCUs can play.
Coach Alonso Jr. said, “If we continue to build the HBCU schools and help them with the funding that is needed to promote baseball, get these kids more acclimated, more educated on a baseball diamond instead of on a street corner we’re going to have a lot more success stories…”
Marvin Freeman said, “I went to an HBCU and I have always said it is not where you’re at it’s how you play. Baseball is going to be baseball… If your athletic ability matches up with your skillset and you’re able to excel at whatever venue you’re in, scouts are out there to notice you. HBCUs are not as funded as some of the other larger schools, but we still have some of the best talent in the country and hopefully these guys will get an opportunity to show that they compete on whatever level they are on.”
AP said, “I think we are in a beautiful spot… It’s not like we’re having to force minorities to play baseball at a young age. It’s becoming as cool as basketball and it’s becoming as cool as football. The goal from what I see is everybody just pass down the knowledge, so, as far as minorities… we’re at a state now where we understand that it takes a village and it takes the rest of everybody for adapting the idea of it but I think these next three or four years we’re going to have a run.”
Lenny Webster said, “I think it has been tough. The numbers have declined in Major League Baseball as far as Black players are concerned, but I think the initiative that Major League Baseball started about five or six years ago, you’re starting to see a dent in that and you’re starting to see an influx of young Black talent coming back into the Major Leagues. I think that the Major League Baseball Dream Series, the Breakthrough Series, the Hank Aaron Invitationals, we get a chance to put our hands on our kids at a young age and it’s obviously begging to show as they get older…”
Coach Rashad Webster said, “I think HBCUs can play a huge role… just simply with activities and events like [the HBCU Allstar game] being done and the job a lot of African American coaches at these colleges and institutions has been superb when it comes to raising these young men properly on and off the field. I think in the next ten years you’ll probably see a huge influx of African American baseball players flowing through the minors and making their way into the MLB.”