It started out 16 years ago as a national Black World Series for high school baseball players. A national promoter thought Atlanta was the perfect place to host such an event. The first year was a big success.
Two young men from that showcase, Jason Heywood and Jeremy Beckham were signed to professional contracts. Heywood signed with the Atlanta Braves. While Beckham signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Later, a group of Black baseball coaches in Dekalb County were asked to host an annual tournament. It has turned into fertile soil for professional scouts. Five players from last year’s MVP competition were drafted this year during the June draft.
Each year professional scouts along with a strong contingent of Black college baseball coaches flock to the MVP Tournament to view the Black baseball talent in the country.
This year several major league ball clubs have scouts at the tournament. There are representatives from the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Parades, Texas Rangers and the Colorado Rockies. Each of these clubs have drafted kids from the MVP showcase who made their way up to the big leagues.
“Buck ” Buchanan, a longtime successful Georgia high school baseball coach and for the past 12 years a scout for the Atlanta Braves sums it up this way:
“The MVP Tournament gives me an opportunity to see a lot of players in one spot that I would not ordinarily see. I’m based in the Southeast and would not get a chance to see a kid from California, or Chicago play.”
Buchanan coached former major league outfielder Jeff Francour in high school. He said he does not like to use the term special in describing the talents of a baseball player, but he knew when he first saw Francour in the ninth grade, that he brought a little something extra to the game that his teammates did not have.
“When scouting these kids, I first look to the middle of the field to find the stronger players and then fan out from there to pick up tendencies from the other players,” Buchanan said.
Asked what had he seen so far Buchanan said, “The kids are playing with a lot of passion. They all have talent or they would not be here. At the end of the day it is hard to project what a 19 year old will be in five years but that is sort of what my job is all about.”
Along with Buchanan, the Braves also sent Hank Aaron, Jr. out to scout the kids. Aaron is moving up in the scouting ranks having successfully scouted and signed Ray Hernandez out of Alabama State University.
Greg “Goody” Goodwin, the MVP President said, “It’s all about helping the kids to get their education. I’m so proud of our volunteer staff that make this tournament happen every year.”
Play concludes today with the crowning of an MVP Champion at the Georgia State Baseball Complex and a banquet where former major league players will talk with the kids about the road to college and the big league.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org