Legendary baseball pioneers like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays broke barriers and opened the doors for generations of Black athletes to enter the sport. However, despite their historic accomplishments and efforts, African Americans still remain widely underrepresented on the field; both at the professional and collegiate levels. Sports leaders are aiming to change that narrative through the creation of the HBCU World Series, Yahoo Sports reported.
Several historically Black colleges and universities across the country have been forced to get rid of their baseball programs due to the lack of funding and participation. Aware of this trend, Erwin Prentiss Hill—who leads the Black College Sports Group 360—decided to create HBCU World Series as an avenue to not only spread awareness about baseball programs at HBCUs but as a platform for representation in the sport. He believes the key to diversifying baseball is to start with the youth and that it’s crucial for them to see themselves reflected in the sport.
“We want to utilize these events to promote educational opportunities to urban youth who in some cases may not even know schools with the history of a North Carolina A&T State University or a Southern University even exists,” Hill said in a statement. “These oftentimes may be first-generation college prospects. They have good grades and good GPAs. They just do not have an understanding from a previous generation of what it takes to navigate that process.”
Southern University and North Carolina A&T will compete during the inaugural event which is slated to take place on May 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. Both coaches are excited to participate in the game. “We’re just honored to have been chosen, love the concept and where we are going with the opportunity to play in the game,” North Carolina A&T head baseball coach Ben Hall said in a statement. “In our division level and even at the Division II level, the programs in HBCU baseball continue to work and push to get themselves to the top.”
Racial diversity on college baseball teams is needed. According to The Sport Journal, Black athletes make up a mere 4.5 percent of NCAA baseball players.