Tag: Black College Baseball

Morehouse Baseball Star Looks Forward to Career at Google Not MLB

By Michael February 4, 2020 0

I’ve been writing about baseball for a long time. I’ve interviewed hundreds of college baseball players, most of the players at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). I’ve only met two young men playing baseball at the HBCU level, who told me that their dream was not to play professional baseball. There is a large percentage of Black college baseball student-athletes who want to pursue professional baseball as a career; despite the fact, Major League Baseball seldom send scouts to watch HBCU baseball games. read more

Tuskegee-Morehouse Split Historic Season Opener

By Michael February 2, 2020 0

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA ( Cascade Publishing House) It was a cold and blustery day. Intermittent rain fell from the sky, some of the droplets appeared like snowflakes as they swirled and floated to the turf in the ballpark once home for the Montgomery Rebels in the old Southern League. The combatants lined up along their respective baselines, the national anthem played over the public address system, and the umpires went over the ground rules. There would be no banging on trash cans, and signs, if stolen, had to employ the old fashion technique perfected during twentieth-century baseball. read more

Marcus Smith Lands Voorhees Head Baseball Coach Post

By Michael August 4, 2019 0

“I’m excited to get another chance to revive a baseball program,” Coach Marcus Smith said over lunch at the iconic Beautiful Restaurant in southwest Atlanta.

Fourteen months ago, Smith walked away from the Head Baseball Coach position at Le Moyne-Owen in Memphis, Tennessee over an NCAA compliance issue that occurred two years before he became head coach at the school. read more

Marque Denmon Brings pro Experience to MVP Baseball classic

By Michael July 14, 2019 0

“This tournament doesn’t have to have a PA announcer. It would be a success without me. What I bring to this tournament is an authentic baseball experience for these young men,” added Denmon in a tone so deep, so rich, that the hearer can only imagine those words originated from somewhere around his navel and moved upwards bursting out of his mouth, and punctuating the airwaves with a resonance indescribable. read more

In Search of Black Baseball Players

By Michael July 12, 2019 0

The 15th annual MVP (Mentoring Viable Prospects) Baseball Classic got underway with a bang in Dekalb County, Georgia on Thursday, July 11, 2019, at the Georgia State University Baseball Complex.

MVP has become a gateway to collegiate baseball scholarships and professional baseball contracts for Black athletes throughout the country. read more

Kentucky State’s Joe Crisp Tosses No-Hitter – Defeats Clark-Atlanta University 3–0

By Michael February 17, 2019 0

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They have been playing baseball since 1888 at Clark-Atlanta University. In fact, the first matchup between two Black college teams pitted Clark College against Atlanta University. The two schools consolidated 100 years later to become Clark-Atlanta University. Perhaps, few games have been as exciting as the Kentucky State University match against Clark-Atlanta University on February 16, 2019. read more

MVP Baseball Tourney Brings Out Pro Scouts

By Michael July 21, 2018 0

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 hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

 

HBCU Baseball Coaches Flock To MVP Tourney

By Michael July 20, 2018 0

Now that college baseball has crowned champions in all divisions of play, college coaches are roaming the countryside. They are in search of the next crop of baseball talent that can place their baseball programs on the map or to keep them on their winning paths.

Each July, Mentoring Viable Prospects (MVP) host a premiere showcase of Black baseball talent. Teams come from across the United States to display their talent to college coaches and professional scouts.

This year teams from California, North Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Virginia, Chicago, Atlanta and Texas will compete for the MVP crown. But the real winner will be all the the young players who have a chance to show what they can do.

Most youth league coaches today will tell you that the goal is not to produce professional athletes. To a man, coaches will tell you the goal is to prepare their young men for a college education.

This year, as in previous years, coaches from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are in attendance.

“I like to get here each year or at least have someone from my staff here to scout the talent,” said Jose’ Vazquez, Head  Baseball Coach at Alabama State University.

Vazquez heads a Division 1 program. Alabama State plays in the highly competitive Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC). This past season his squad won the East Conference title.

However, they finished third in the conference tournament behind runner-up Grambling and conference champions Texas Southern University.

After watching Chicago defeat Virginia 5-2, Vazquez said, “It’s kinda of hard to find the arms at this level, but I see some good position players on the field right now.”

Vazquez needs to plug a few holds as he lost his third baseman Ray Hernandez to the Atlanta Braves.

The SWAC is well represented. In addition to Vazquez, Auntwon Riggins, Head Coach, Prairie View A & M University, is front and center. He meticulously makes mental notes of players tendencies. Likely these notes will end up in the color coded notebook he keeps on players and coaches.

Tristan Toorie, Alcorn State University, rounds out the SWAC contingent.

Representing the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) is Danny Barnes, Assistant Baseball Coach at Tuskegee University. Representing the Independents is Claflin College James Randall.

In attendance from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and fresh off an appearance in the NCAA Division 1 Regional Baseball Playoff is North Carolina A & T University Head Baseball Coach Ben Hall.

The college coaches are here and the kids are playing their hearts out. Action runs through July 21st at the Georgia State University Baseball Field.

 

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 hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

 

Wilbert Ellis: The Embodiment of the Spirit of Grambling

By Michael May 23, 2018 0

I met former Grambling baseball coach Wilbert Ellis at a baseball game in New Orleans, Louisiana,  sitting in the bleachers of Wesley Barrow Stadium . He was surrounded by a faithful entourage; holding court on the nature of the competition in the Southwestern Athletic Conference 2018 Baseball Championship.

This is a subject he knows something about, as history records Ellis won three SWAC baseball championships and eight western divisional titles in his 26 years as head baseball coach at Grambling State University.

He is warm, affable and extended his right hand to greet me, as his former shortstop and National College Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee Robert Braddy, sought to introduce us.

“I know who he is,” Ellis, said interrupting Braddy’s introduction.

“He’s doing a fine job,” Ellis said, grasping my right hand in a firm handshake.

We had not met until that moment. Yet Ellis greeted me as if he was greeting a son, a former player of his or someone he had watched grow into adulthood.

Ellis, ever the coach kept a watchful eye on everyone and everything that moved or did not move in Wesley Barrow Stadium, which is named for the legendary manager of the New Orlean Black Pelicans during the period of segregated professional baseball.

Unknown to me, he watched as I went about my job of reporting on the baseball action for BlackCollegeNines.

Although we had not been formerly introduced, he was observing me, my professionalism and character and was keenly aware of my movement around the stadium. With all of his success in baseball, the game for Ellis has never been about runs, hits and errors. It is about the opportunity to mold the character of young men.

Character is a trait that he looks for in the people he encounters. It is a trait that is the ethos of  Lincoln Parish where the City of Ruston, Louisiana is located and where Ellis’s character was nurtured.

Lincoln Parish is the base from which he has taught character building to young people who come into his sphere of influence.

In the 1930s when Ellis was born, Lincoln Parish was a little over 60 years old. The Parish is named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln, the nation’s 16th President.

Lincoln Parish was formed as a Reconstruction Parish. It was organized in 1873 from parts of Bienville, Claiborne, Union, and Jackson parishes, for the explicit purpose of providing a political subdivision with a strong Black voting block.It was expected that these new voters would counter Democratic Party and vicariously, Confederate sympathizers’ who controlled Louisiana politics after the Civil War.

In the beginning, Lincoln Parish was a small community. It still is today. According to the 2010 census, less than 50,000 people live in Lincoln Parish.In 1873, Blacks in Lincoln Parish were primarily employed in the agriculture industry.

Ten years later, the Vicksburg, Shreveport, and Pacific Railroad depot was opened in downtown Ruston. The land for the railroad depot was sold to the company by Robert Edward Russ, the founder of Ruston, who sought to capitalize his business interest with the support of “Freedmen” voters.

In 1873, Blacks in Lincoln Parish were just eight years removed from the enslavement period. Farming was a natural fit for formerly enslaved people of the newly formed county. For people engaged in farming, life post emancipation was not much different than enslavement days.

So 28 years after Lincoln Parish was organized to take advantage of Black voting strength and 36 years after enslavement, a group of Black farmers in Ruston, wanting a better future for their children, wrote to Booker T. Washington, Principal of Tuskegee Industrial and Normal School and asked if he would come to Ruston in Lincoln Parish and establish a school.

Washington was committed to Tuskegee. He turned the letter over to Lewis Adams, the founder of the school at Tuskegee who had hired Washington as the school’s first principal.

Twenty-one years before the Black farmers in Lincoln Parish had written to Washington seeking help in organizing a school, Lewis Adams had the same desire for the children of Tuskegee.

In 1880, Adams was approached by two Democrats in the Alabama legislature who were in fear of losing their seats to Reconstruction carpetbaggers, one in the Senate and the other in the House,. They came to Adams for his political endorsement. Adams traded his support for their promise to appropriate funds for the establishment of a teacher’s college in the city of Tuskegee. The two men won and they keep their promise.

Within a month of taking office an appropriation bill that provided $2,000 annually for teachers salaries passed the House and the following month the measure passed the senate. It took Adams four months to settle on Washington as the person to bring his vision to life and to lure him out of seminary school in Virginia, where he had gone after leaving Hampton Institute.

Lewis Adams was a big proponent of industrial education. His philosophy meshed with the agricultural genius of George Washington Carver, who Washington had convinced to come to work at Tuskegee.

Ironically, several years before the Black farmers of Lincoln Parish had written to Washington, a native son of Lincoln Parish named Charles Adams had journeyed to Tuskegee to attend school. While in Tuskegee, Charles Adams met and married a daughter of Lewis Adams. He came under the tutelage of his father-in-law.

Clearly, Lewis Adams did not want to lose Washington at Tuskegee. He had the perfect candidate to recommend to the Black farmers of Lincoln Parish.

He sent his son-in-law, Charles Adams back home to organize the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School in Lincoln Parish, now known as Grambling State University. Charles Adams was steeped in the Tuskegee ethos, which was built on character, hard work and dedication to one’s God, family and community.

Charles Adams learned these principles from Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington. They played well in the agrarian community of Lincoln Parish. These principles became the guiding spirit of Grambling and were taught to each student who came through the school to learn how to find a better way of life as free men and women in early 20th century America.

In 1926, Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones organized a baseball program at Grambling. Ten years later Jones, affectionately known as “Prez” by those who knew him, became the second President of Grambling.

In 1940, Jones organized a football program and was the school’s first head football coach. A year later, he hired Eddie Robinson to take over the football duties. Jones would later say that “Hiring Eddie Robinson was one of the best decision I ever made.”

Robinson was cut from the same cloth as Jones. He molded young student athletes into a fierce fighting machine on the gridiron and into respectful young men in society.

Jones continued to coach baseball during his tenure as President. He retired from both posts in 1977.

“Prez ” was a role model for students on campus and his student athletes on the baseball team. He won more than 800 baseball games in his 51 year collegiate coaching career. In 2014, Jones was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

As a young man, “Prez” was tutored in the Grambling way by Charles Adams, who had sat at the feet of Lewis Adams, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.

In 1955, a youngster from Ruston, Louisiana in Lincoln Parish named Wilbert Ellis, enrolled into Grambling to study Physical Education. He came out for the baseball team and fell under the spell of Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones.

Ellis graduated from Grambling in 1959. Jones immediately hired him as the assistant baseball coach. For 17 years, Ellis came under the tutelage of Jones. He shared the dugout with him and learned the life lessons through the art of baseball that a man of sound character can teach a young man.

In 1977, Jones handed Grambling’s baseball program to Ellis, who held the job until his retirement in 2002 winning 745 games along the way. In 2007, Ellis was inducted into the America Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Yet at 80 years of age, there is nothing retiring about Ellis. At the SWAC tournament, Ellis would move away from his entourage when his Grambling Tigers were on the field.

At one point, following a Jackson State win, he told his former shortstop, Robert Braddy, who was the Head Baseball Coach at Jackson State for more than 30 years, “Go ahead on now. You won your game, I got to get ready to see what my boys gonna do.”

He would move his seat near the Grambling dugout where He could yell encouragement and sage coaching advice to players and coaches alike.

“Bunt stikes,” Ellis shouted to a young batter who failed in an attempt to bunt a pitch out of the strike zone.

“Bunt down,” he offered to another batter who had bunted a ball in the air where it could have been caught for an out by the opposing team.

“Take the ball with you,” Ellis yelled to a left hand batter who laid down a bunt towards third base rather than first base.

Listening to Ellis shout clear, concise instructions was like a writer reading Professor William Strunk, Jr’s timeless book, The Elements of Style.

Without meeting Professor Strunk, but being a witness as Coach Ellis laid down the rules of baseball, I can visualize the cadence and nuance of Strunk’s command to his students at Cornell:

“Do not join independent clauses with a comma.”

“Do not break sentences in two.”

“Use the active voice.”

I’ve probably violated more of Will Strunk’s rules for good writing in this piece than I care to be graded upon.

It’s easier said by the professor than done by writers who write a little or a lot. Much like the difficulty the Grambling players were having carrying out the commands of a baseball professor, who knows, should the players execute his commands, they will find success on the diamond and in the game of life.

Current Grambling Head Baseball Coach, James Cooper, one of the 49 Grambling baseball players Ellis sent to the major leagues does not seem to mind the constant instructions from his former coach.

At one point in the championship game, the Grambling pitcher hit a rough spot and could not retire the opposing batters. Ellis shouted, “Go out there and settle him down.”

Moments later, Coach Cooper called time-out and sauntered to the mound to help his young pitcher collect himself. After the visit, the pitcher got the out he was seeking.

This is the respect that Ellis has from his former players. They still listen to him. He is a trusted voice and can be counted upon to give good, clear advice.

On Saturday, Grambling was confronted with a must win game if they were going to advance to the championship game the next day. Their opponent was Alabama State University, just 35 miles down the road from Tuskegee. Alabama State university’s colors are gold and black. The same colors as Grambling.

In 1987, Grambling’s head football coach, the legendary Eddie Robinson added a bit of Tuskegee Red around the iconic “G” logo of Grambling.

Robinson, like Ellis was mentored by Jones, who was mentored by Adams, et al; so Grambling suited up in their Tuskegee Red jersey with the gold and black trim. An appropo move considering its historical ties with Tuskegee. They routed a very good Alabama State team that had beaten them handily the previous day.

“Hello Coach, how are you doing today,” a young man about 40 years-old said as he walked up to shake Ellis’s hand before a Grambling baseball game.

It was Pentecost Sunday. Ellis extended his hand to the young man and asked, “Did you go to church today?”

“Yes sir,” he replied to his former coach, then added, “You taught me to do that a couple of decades ago.”

“Just wanted to make sure you still living right young man,” Ellis said.

Before the beginning of the championship game against Texas Southern University, Marshawn Taylor, Grambling’s nationally top rated shortstop came near the stands where Coach Ellis was seated to get his blessings and last minute instructions before the game.

“You focused?” Ellis asked Taylor.

“Yes sir,” Taylor replied.

“There is no tomorrow. Today is tomorrow,” Ellis admonished.

“I’m ready,” Taylor respectfully responded.

After Taylor trotted back to the dugout, Ellis averred:

“He should get drafted next month. He is a good shortstop, but I think he will be moved to second base.”

Taylor finished the year with a .400 batting average in spite of teams routinely deploying a shift to the right side to take away his natural hitting zone.

The 5 foot 10 inch, 150 pound Taylor, pounded the ball with such force, that more often than not, he drove pitch after pitch through the infield shift. Taylor made the SWAC All-Tournament team.

Everyone in the stands, at least everyone on the Grambling side of the stadium, from parents of current team members, to alumni to former baseball players, knew Coach Ellis and hung on his every word.

Throughout the school year and before each game, Ellis has a pep talk with the players. He talks to them about the game of life, remaining focused, especially in difficult moments and doing the best you can possibly do.

During the first day of the tournament, Ellis remarked after seeing Texas Southern win their opening game, “Texas Southern looks like they are ready for a championship.”

Ellis’ keen sense of people and their tendencies did not fail him, as Texas Southern trounced his Grambling Tigers 18-3 in the Championship game.

Undaunted, Ellis is off to Omaha where he will conduct a baseball clinic during the College World Series.

Asked to put his life into perspective, Ellis said, “I have one God, one life, one wife and I’ve had one job.”

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 hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com