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HBCU Swingman Classic rosters announced

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Ken Griffey Jr. says the reason he spearheaded the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic is simple.

“My dad gave back to baseball,” Griffey told MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds on Friday. “It’s now my turn.”

Griffey, a 13-time All-Star and Baseball Hall of Famer, now serves as a Youth Development Foundation Ambassador for MLB and the MLB Players Association. During All-Star Week in July, his newest creation will take shape.

The HBCU Swingman Classic presented by T-Mobile & powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation will feature a game between baseball student-athletes from Division I programs at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). It will take place at 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET on July 7 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, the site of the 2023 All-Star Game. The contest will air live on MLB Network.

“What better way to celebrate HBCU baseball?” Del Matthews, MLB vice president for player development, said Friday during a roster reveal for the event on MLB Network.

Matthews himself played baseball at Texas Southern, one of the HBCUs that comprise the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Hall of Famer Andre Dawson (Florida A&M) also played in the SWAC; former MLB second baseman Rickie Weeks Jr. won the Golden Spikes Award, given to college baseball’s best player, while at a SWAC school — Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.

Griffey and those putting on the first HBCU Swingman Classic know not every young baseball player can afford to play at a Power Five university. Many might have the talent but don’t have the chance to play at college baseball’s highest level.

Being able to compete at a Major League ballpark in front of a national audience could change everything for the selected players, who were chosen by an 11-man selection committee including Dawson and former Southern coach Roger Cador.

“It gives an opportunity for these guys to be seen; plus, they want to continue their baseball career like everybody else,” Griffey said. “This is an opportunity for these guys to be out there on a big stage, to have some fun with some guys who played the game at a high level and learn some things.”

Those “guys” include Griffey himself. He will spend time in both teams’ dugouts during the contest, letting players ask him questions and “talk about whatever” — just like Griffey Sr. once did for his son.

Making an appearance during a Zoom call Friday with Reynolds and the 50 selected players, Griffey acknowledged not every player in the contest will end up being drafted or playing Major League Baseball. But he offered a reminder that there are other opportunities, including the front office, coaching, the Minor Leagues and the Youth Development Foundation with which Griffey works.

“You can always stay in the game that you love and help the next generation,” Griffey said.

Dawson and Ken Griffey Sr. will be among the coaches for the teams, as will plenty of HBCU alumni who reached the Majors, including Weeks, Marquis Grissom and Vince Coleman. Former Major League managers Jerry Manuel and Bo Porter will manage the teams.

The broadcast will include Reynolds, Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims, and HBCU sports journalist Symone Stanley as the sideline reporter.

Players were selected from the following schools:

Alabama A&M University
Alabama State University
Alcorn State University
University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Bethune Cookman University
Coppin State University
Delaware State University
Florida A&M University
Grambling State University
Jackson State University
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Mississippi Valley State University
Norfolk State University
North Carolina A&T University
Prairie View A&M University
Southern University
Texas Southern University

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