Hank Aaron Invitational brings players together

July 28th, 2019

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- MLB development camps like the Hank Aaron Invitational aren’t just building skills. In high school prospects Christian Little, Irving Carter, Ian Moller and Christian Moore, they’re building a lifelong friendship.

And the players’ shared dream of reaching the big leagues as African-Americans is how it all started.

“It’s nice having people understand you, because where I’m from not a lot of people understand,” said Moller, an LSU commit and native of Dubuque, Iowa.

Moller explains it’s because his state’s elite baseball players are in no-man’s land in high school. Most other top athletes play football and basketball, and the non-athletes party during their free time.

When Moller met Little, Moore and Carter on the camp circuit two years ago, he realized they were going through similar experiences.

“Beyond playing, our lifestyles are much different than other 16-year-olds are,” said Little, a Vanderbilt commit from St. Louis. “We wake up, we go to school, we go train, and that’s basically what we do every day. While the other 16-year-olds are partying and having fun, we’re putting in hours in our craft and trying to make it somewhere.”

The four viewed each other as competition at first, threats to their position on scouts’ rankings. But Moore, a Brooklyn product and Tennessee commit, said they “became brothers and close friends” at the 2018 MLB Dream Series in Tempe, Ariz.

Moore, Little, Carter and Moller’s transformation from teammates to brothers is obvious to anyone around them at this week’s Hank Aaron Invitational, an event the MLB and MLBPA created to promote amateur baseball development.

When the friends aren’t filling a room with laughter, they’re doing so in their group chat -- which consists of jokes, dating advice and everything in between.

“We’re alike in so many ways, and I think every event we come to, every time we see each other, our bond gets better,” said Carter, a Miami commit from Boynton Beach, Fla.

The four are close enough to finish each other’s sentences now. And they credit their relationship to MLB’s diversity-focused camps.

“It’s just hard to thrive with our culture in that environment, and I feel like we got here, and we could be loose, and be ourselves,” Little said. “We don’t have to really change to fit the protocol or the standard.”

Some of baseball's greatest African-American players are speaking at the Hank Aaron Invitational, from Ken Griffey Jr. to Andre Dawson. Former MLB All-Stars like Eric Davis and Tom “Flash” Gordon are coaching.

The friends say they’re more than thankful to learn from them, legends who reached success from the shoes they’re in now. And they plan on paying it forward to the next generation.

“That would be a dream: for all us four to come back here in like 20, 30 years to give knowledge that we know to younger kids,” Carter said.

But before they start coaching, the players’ main goal is making it to the majors -- specifically in the first round. After that, they’re planning to share an offseason home together in Miami Beach.

The friends’ bond developed through baseball. And as they continue to blossom as players, they view their friendship doing the same.

“If our friendship is this great at our age now, just imagine like two to four to six years,” Carter said.

Moller is thinking even further.

“It will exist for the rest of our lifetimes,” he said.