Excitement building for 2nd annual HBCU Swingman Classic

By Kennedi Landri

 If you ask Del Matthews, HBCU baseball is the closest one can get to the Negro Leagues in the modern day.

Matthews, MLB’s vice president of baseball development and an HBCU alumnus, has been a central part of what has come to the forefront of Major League Baseball’s premier events highlighting the history and legacy of Black baseball.

The second annual HBCU Swingman Classic will take place on July 12 at Globe Life Field, during MLB’s All-Star Week festivities. The event features the top 50 college baseball players from Division-I Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Matthews, former Rangers second baseman Mark McLemore and former MLB scout and MLBPA consultant Reggie Waller were on hand for the media event on Tuesday at Globe Life Field.

“We’re going to see some really competitive baseball, we’re going to see some high energy and we’re going to see a lot of fun,” Matthews said. “We’re going to see the culture of what HBCU baseball is. Like I said, it’s probably the closest thing that you can get to what the the Negro Leagues was like.

“Playing baseball in agency, the back and forth, the camaraderie, the rivalries between the schools, all that comes out in the game between the players. The fact that they get a chance to showcase their skills here at Globe Life Field, the home of the World Series champion Rangers is just an extraordinary opportunity.”

The two teams in this year’s Swingman Classic will be managed by Ken Griffey Sr. and Lloyd McClendon, with coaching staffs including Andre Dawson, Jerry Manuel, McLemore and a number of former big leaguers who are also HBCU alums, including Courtney Duncan, Trenidad Hubbard, Lenny Webster, Ralph Garr Sr. and Vince Coleman.

The athletes were selected by a committee that includes Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and representatives from MLB, the MLBPA and others across the baseball scouting community. Sixteen DI HBCUs will be represented in this year’s Swingman Classic, including two in Texas: Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M.

“Working with Ken Griffey Jr. has been incredible,” Matthews said. “He was really visionary for this event. He came up with the concept, and there have been other conversations about doing it, but Junior really deserves a lot of credit for lending his name to the event and wanting to promote HBCUs, wanting to shine a light on kids that he felt could produce the same level if given the opportunity.”

The day’s festivities will also include a pregame ceremony with the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Opal Lee, a Divine Nine reception, an HBCU college fair, a sports career panel and a Battle of the Bands between Texas Southern’s “Ocean of Soul” and Prairie View A&M’s “Marching Storm.”

Twenty-time Grammy Award winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin and his choir will perform both the American National Anthem and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before the game.

“This is just a great opportunity,” McLemore said. “I had the chance to go in Seattle last year, and it’s awesome. This is something that obviously just has started to get bigger and better. Being in Seattle, not really knowing a whole lot about it, I had the opportunity to learn a lot while I was there. This is just such a great opportunity for these young men to showcase what they can do, and it gives me chills to think about other people experiencing it for the first time. I really can’t wait.”