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Andre Dawson Classic celebrates diversity

@alysonfooter
February 14, 2020

NEW ORLEANS -- College baseball season is on the horizon, including in New Orleans, where Major League Baseball is preparing for one of its signature tournaments. Named after their noted Hall of Famer, the Andre Dawson Classic will feature six teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well

NEW ORLEANS -- College baseball season is on the horizon, including in New Orleans, where Major League Baseball is preparing for one of its signature tournaments.

Named after their noted Hall of Famer, the Andre Dawson Classic will feature six teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as the University of New Orleans. Tournament games will be hosted at both the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy and Maestri Field at the University of New Orleans.

The tournament, which begins Friday and will conclude Sunday, is held in mid-February every year as part of MLB's celebration of Black History Month. The event attracts scores of college players and their families, in addition to many MLB dignitaries that add an air of prestige to an already well-received tournament.

The headliner, of course, is Dawson, also known as the "Hawk," who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 following a 21-year career with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins. Dawson, who attended Florida A&M University, will be joined by 14-year veteran Rickie Weeks, an alumnus of Southern University, and former catcher Lenny Webster, who played 12 years in the big leagues after attending Grambling State.

The list of dignitaries doesn't stop there. Also scheduled to be present at the tournament are Jerry Manuel, a former Major League infielder and manager who now serves as a baseball and softball development consultant for MLB; Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Bo Porter, who managed the Houston Astros from 2013-14.

The schools that will participate in the Classic include Alabama State University, making its fifth appearance; Alcorn State University (6th appearance); Grambling State University (9th appearance); Prairie View A&M University (6th appearance); Southern University (13th appearance) and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (3rd appearance).

Three HBCU schools -- Southern, Alcorn State and Grambling State -- as well as the University of New Orleans will be featured live on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday.

Southern will face Alcorn State in a matinee game beginning at 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. ET), with the University of New Orleans and Grambling State following soon after at 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m. ET). Both games will be called by Porter and MLB Network studio host and play-by-play announcer Scott Braun.

Additionally, for the first time, MLB is including youth baseball teams from Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and New Orleans to compete in the inaugural New Orleans MLB Youth Academy 12U Tournament, held in connection to the Classic. This competitive tournament will give participating kids an opportunity to attend the college games, and will be recognized prior to the contest between Grambling State and the University of New Orleans on Saturday.

In addition to the weekend's festivities in New Orleans, MLB has committed to expand its support of HBCUs with the launch of the HBCU Play Ball Series, to be held at HBCUs across the country, including Florida A&M University in Tallahassee on Feb. 29; Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on March 30; and Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., on May 3.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.