July 31, 2019 | by: Cheyenne Brown; @cheytv_
WASHINGTON, DC – – The story of the decline of black ballplayers in Major League Baseball has been oft-told. In, 1981, 18.7 percent of all major league ballplayers were African Americans. Over the last 30 years, those numbers have drastically declined. Today, less than eight percent of players on the MLB roster are black.
Less well known is the concurrent decline in black college ballplayers. According to NCAA statistics, among college teams, the percentage of black players is less than five percent.
There are many reasons for this – a lack of full scholarships in baseball, the difficulty of maintaining baseball fields in inner-city areas, the rise of expensive travel youth baseball programs, etc.
Black athletes are more likely to gravitate towards sports like football and baseball because they see black athletes dominating on the professional level. It is easier for a parent to envision their child’s success in a sport where they can see other African Americans success so frequently broadcasted.
These trends have had one undeniable impact – they have dealt a blow to the baseball programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
There is one summer baseball team that is working to support black college baseball and give opportunities for talented black ballplayers – the DC Grays of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. Each year, the Grays recruit several ballplayers from HBCUs. Currently, out of a roster of 32 players, the Grays have nine African American ball players. Of those nine, three of them attend HBCUs: Pitcher Jarren Norman (Virginia State University), Pitcher Bryce Ross & 1B Blake Martin (Southern University), and OF Matt Day (Coppin State University).
Currently, out of a roster of 32 players, the Grays have nine African American ball players. Of those nine, four of them attend HBCUs: Pitcher Jarren Norman (Virginia State University), Pitcher Bryce Ross & 1B Blake Martin (Southern University), and OF Matt Day (Coppin State University).
“Just because black kids are heavily exposed to basketball and football doesn’t mean that black kids aren’t playing baseball, because they are. They just aren’t getting the exposure that they could be,” Grays General Manager Antonio Scott said. “One of our goals is to get some of the best black baseball players from around the country on a collegiate level to come play for us.”
HBCU’s have to compete with other elite programs to get these athletes to commit to their schools. These elite programs have more resources and are a more promising pathway for their athletes to get connected with professional teams.
“It would help if HBCUs had a broader recruiting spectrum. They don’t need to be afraid of getting guys who are from other areas. This gives them a larger talent pool to work from resulting in more prospects,” said Grays infielder Blake Martin (Southern University).
“During the recruiting process, I think it is important for HBCU’s to emphasize the culture aspect and the environmental benefits of attending an HBCU,” said Grays pitcher Bryce Ross (Southern University).
It is not uncommon to see an HBCU team comprised of more white and Latino players than black. Yahoo Sports reported that two HBCU baseball conferences have rosters that are less than 50 percent black.
“I actually did not know the number of African Americans playing in college was so low… I did think something was weird about Winston-Salem State University dropping their baseball program after a really good season,” said Grays pitcher Jarren Norman (Virginia State).
In May 2019 Winston State’s baseball program was dropped. This is the third HBCU Baseball program to dissolve in the last two years – including Concordia College Alabama and St. Augustine University. The WSSU baseball program won the conference championship, and was promptly cut from the budget in order to have more scholarship money available for more popular sports on campus.
“Growing up in the inner-city of Chicago, I picked up baseball to stay busy and out of trouble. My high school coach, coached RBI baseball and one of his goals were to keep kids involved and most importantly get them to college,” Norman said.
Norman’s story is a familiar one – since RBI program’s across the country have been a lifeline for young black kids who want to play ball. RBI stands for Reviving Baseball in the Inner-City, and is Major League Baseball’s signature effort to increase interest in baseball in underserved urban areas.
DC Grays Baseball formed DC Grays RBI in 2016 in partnership with MLB to bring the RBI program back to Washington. The Grays sponsor a summer youth baseball league – Ward 7 Baseball, as well as travel level baseball and softball programs for older kids. Each year, DC Grays RBI teams represent Washington at the Mid-Atlantic RBI Tournament in July. This year, the tournament was held in Durham, NC – and both DC Grays RBI teams made the semi-finals.
“There are young black athletes who are really good athletes and can be really good baseball players; we just have to find them,” said Washington Nationals scouting supervisor Bobby Myrick. He is a supporter of the Grays and their efforts to support inner-city baseball.
The DC Grays play at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Ward 7. The Grays strive to be ‘ambassadors in baseball’ in DC. The Grays strive to bring in black talent and expose them to Dc Grays RBI program and local Little Leagues, so the local kids can see that they can play college ball if they stick with it.
Tonight the DC Grays will begin the 2019 Ripken League playoffs. The team comes in ranked as the #4 seed and will face the #5 seed the Gaithersburg Giants. Finishing as the #4 seed grants the Grays a home game, but due to scheduling issues tonight’s game will be played at Criswell Field in Gaithersburg, MD (400 Victory Farms Drive, Gaithersburg, MD 20877) and the Grays will be the home team.
First pitch is scheduled for 7 PM
July 17, 2019 | by: DCGrays.com Press
WASHINGTON, DC – – The DC Grays held their annual day on Capitol Hill, with a tour of the Capitol arranged by the Office of Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), followed by a reception at the General Dynamics townhouse on Capitol Hill.
The Grays were honored to be joined by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents DC in the U.S. House of Representatives. As she has done in the past, the Congresswoman spoke with the team at the reception, and she presented the Grays with a proclamation that she entered into the Congressional Record commending the team and the DC Grays Baseball organization for its ongoing efforts to promote inner-city baseball and softball.
The statement salutes the Grays for its free baseball and softball clinics, as well as its ongoing commitment to the DC Grays RBI program – the Grays cooperative effort with Major League baseball to promote baseball and softball in underserved areas of the city. Currently, more than 200 kids – most of them from Wards 6, 7, and 8 – participate in DC Grays RBI programming.
“Madam Speaker,” Congresswoman Holmes Norton wrote in conclusion, “I ask the House to join me in commending the DC Grays for the important work it has done and continues to do in our community. We wish the DC Grays luck in continuing to inspire and engage disadvantaged youth.”
“Congresswoman Holmes Norton is a great friend of the DC Grays, and we cannot thank her enough” said Michael Barbera, president of DC Grays Baseball. “She has always championed our efforts to be ‘ambassadors for baseball’ in inner-city Washington, and we are very grateful to have such a supportive advocate in the Congress.”
July 16, 2019 | by: Cheyenne Brown; @cheytv_
WASHINGTON, DC – – A nucleus is defined in the dictionary as “the central part or the core of parts that that been grouped or gathered.”
To DC Grays’ head coach Reggie Terry, his players from BYU form the nucleus of his squads every summer. The Grays are members of the elite Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League.
“These boys have been a staple nucleus to the team,” head coach Terry said. “They [BYU] have sent us All-Star players, players that have been drafted to the MLB, and players with very credible reputations.”
From dominating in their positions to leading in team and league statistics, these players have become an essential part of the Grays. In previous years, BYU players for the Grays have made Ripken League all-star teams, been named All-League players, and have been drafted by MLB.
Coming from a small Mormon college like Brigham Young University to the nation’s capital can be quite an adjustment for BYU ballplayers.
“Guys come play for us because they want to play against top players, and they want to experience baseball in a different environment than they are used to,” said Chris Spera, a vice president of DC Grays Baseball who works with the BYU coaching staff on which players will come to DC each summer.
Like any other team, the Grays look for players who will be able to produce, who are passionate, who are leaders, and players who not only have potential but players who are coachable. The players sent by BYU possess all of these qualities.
Spera says that with these core teams “you know the quality of the player they are sending, and you know when the coach speaks on what the player can do for the team, that there is some certainty that it is going to be accurate.”
This year the DC Grays has four players from BYU: sophomore infielder Austin Deming, sophomore catcher Josh Cowden, sophomore infielder Bryan Call, and sophomore right-handed pitcher Reid McLaughlin.
These players have very impressive resumes:McLaughlin earned West Coast Conference All-Freshman Team honors in his freshman season at BYU. He was the first player in BYU history to have at least seven wins and four saves in a single season.
These players have very impressive resumes.
McLaughlin earned West Coast Conference All-Freshman Team honors in his freshman season at BYU. He was the first player in BYU history to have at least seven wins and four saves in a single season.
At BYU Call started in 16 of the 24 games he played in. He was a designated hitter with nine hits, nine runs and 10 RBI. For the Grays, Call does his job, Terry says he is consistent a player and is very good at second base and at the plate.
Deming serves as a two-way player for DC. He is able to close games on the mound and he also plays first base and hits in the middle of the lineup. His play earned him a spot on the DC/VA team for this year’s Ripken League All-Star game.
This will be Cowden’s first season as a BYU Cougar as he transferred from Salt Lake Community College. He is excellent behind the plate, and is improving with the bat. “His bat is starting to heat up,” Terry said.
The Grays built these relationships to know that they can rely on these programs to send them promising players each year. The core programs for the Grays are schools like BYU, Eastern Kentucky, Wofford, and Lafayette. They make up about 40 to 50 percent of the Gray’s roster, alleviating some of the work that comes with the recruiting process.
A lot of these core programs began from grapevine relations. The BYU relationship began six years ago, with the Grays’ VP of Operations, Chris Spera’s business partner, Spencer Kimball. Kimball played basketball in college with the recruiting coordinator for baseball at Brigham Young, Brent Hering, and he introduced the two.
BYU wanted to start sending their players to the east coast for a chance to experience not only baseball but life outside of the west coast. The Grays is the most diverse team, some of their players have ever played on.
“Coming to play for this team was definitely a culture shock. I am so used to all my teammates being from the same area as me. Playing for the Grays you have a team of guys who from all over the country,” McLaughlin said.
As seasons continue the Grays hope to continue their strong relationship with BYU.