MLB Sets First Urban Invitational

By Jim Molony
Updated: January 31, 2008

CALIFORNIA — Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Academy will host the first Urban Invitational baseball tournament, Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday.

The inaugural event will feature Southern University, Bethune-Cookman, UCLA and USC in a six-game tournament to be played at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., USC’s Dedeaux Field and UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium beginning Friday, Feb. 29, and continuing through Sunday, March 2.

Both games on Saturday, March 1, will be played at the MLB Urban Youth Academy and broadcast live on ESPN2.

The participation of historically black universities Bethune-Cookman of the MEAC and Southern of the SWAC in the tournament is part of MLB’s ongoing diversity and youth initiatives.

“The Urban Invitational Baseball Tournament is a part of our continued focus on reviving the majesty of baseball in the African-American community,” Major League Baseball executive vice president of operations Jimmie Lee Solomon said in the press release announcing the event.

“This tournament, along with the other programs at the MLB Urban Youth Academy, the Civil Rights Game and many of our other efforts, is reflective of the League’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and engagement of our nation’s young people. Our goal is to make sure that every child who wants to play baseball has an opportunity to do so.”

Fans attending the tournament games on March 1 will also be entertained by live performances of Southern University’s “Human Jukebox” and USC’s Trojan Marching Band. Bethune-Cookman University and Southern University will play each other at 1 p.m. PT on Sunday at the academy.

“ESPN is proud to be associated with Major League Baseball’s urban initiatives,” Len DeLuca, ESPN senior vice president, programming and acquisitions, said in the press release.

“The second Civil Rights Game and new Urban Invitational — 40 years since the tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — are on the heels of our observance last year of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. ESPN is honored to join with MLB to celebrate baseball’s cultural history.”

The MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy encompasses more than 15 acres on the campus of El Camino College, Compton Center. The academy is a state-of-the-art facility featuring four fields, including a show field, batting cages and other training facilities.

The academy operates on a year-round basis, offering free baseball and softball instruction, as well as clinics to youth throughout Southern California.

“On behalf of our team, I would like to say how honored we are to have been invited to an event like this, especially in its first year,” Bethune-Cookman Coach Mervyl Melendez said in the press release.

“We hope that the Urban Invitational Baseball Tournament continues to grow and more people notice what Major League Baseball is doing for college baseball and historically black colleges.”

Tickets to the games being played at the MLB Urban Youth Academy will be available for purchase on gameday for $5.00. Proceeds from the ticket sale will benefit the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy, which is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

The tournament schedule (all times Pacific):

Friday, Feb. 29

– UCLA vs. Southern University, 6 p.m. at UCLA

– USC vs. Bethune-Cookman, 6 p.m. at USC.

Saturday, March 1

– UCLA vs. Bethune-Cookman, 5 p.m. at MLB Urban Youth Academy

– Battle of the Bands: Southern’s “Human Jukebox” and USC Trojan Marching Band.

– Southern vs. USC, 8 p.m. at MLB Urban Youth Academy.

Sunday, March 2

– Southern vs. Bethune-Cookman, 1 p.m. at MLB Urban Youth Academy

– USC vs. UCLA, 1 p.m. at USC.