In the centennial anniversary of the Negro Leagues Baseball professional league, Major League Baseball (MLB) held its “Play Ball” series event at Florida A&M University, which marks the first time the event has been held at a Historically Black College or University.
In each year since 2015, MLB has sponsored 35 to 40 “Play Ball” series events to encourage children to engage in baseball or softball-related activities.
These activities include base-running, hitting, and agility drills. At this event, kids were being coached by FAMU baseball players.
Former two-time MLB all-star, outfielder and FAMU alum Vince Coleman was a special guest at Saturday’s event and was thrilled to see the number of children that attended the event, especially at an HBCU.
“When I go back to my neighborhood and I don’t see baseball as an option anymore and everything is catered to football and basketball, it makes me happy and proud to come back and see these kids out here, it brings chills to my eyes,” Coleman said.
“We have to give back and give them the insight that there is a future out there for them at an HBCU, not thinking that they have to go somewhere else,” Coleman stated.
“It takes for myself to come back and show them that I started here, and how I came from this program and what it has done for me,” Coleman added.
David James, who serves as the Vice President of the “Play Ball” series feels as though the main goal of the event is to make baseball enjoyable for the children.
“It’s important for kids just to come out and have fun playing our sport, and these informal ways of playing the game are really important so that they can have fun and can continue to want to play baseball,” James said.
Del Matthews, who serves as another Vice President of the series, believes that having this event at an HBCU for the first time was powerful.
“Being at an HBCU is important for these young boys and girls to see the college baseball athletes and players like Vince Coleman, who played in the major leagues and is an alum of the school,” Matthews said.
“It allows these kids at a young age to see that if they work hard and do well in school they have an opportunity to come to college someday, and to create (that) excitement around the game of baseball in Black History Month is very important,” Matthews added.
Carter Young, who is a graduate from the FAMU College of Law, attended the event and touched on why it was important for his children to get this experience as well.
“Historically, baseball was the original sport for African-Americans in this country, so I think (that) baseball is a viable sport, there’s little concussion risk, and they can learn teamwork while not having the wear and tear on their body,” Young said.
“When you look at the history of FAMU baseball with Vince Coleman, Andre Dawson, and Marquis Grissom, I thought it would be a great thing to come to,” Young stated.
Young also expressed his thoughts on the event and the positive effects he feels it will have on his children.
“I think it’s going to have a positive effect because there is a bunch of kids and instructors out here that look like them, and it won’t seem like an alien concept or something that’s unattainable, when in fact its something that’s readily available to them,” Young stated.