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Andre Dawson Classic set to get underway

New Orleans tourney features eight colleges, including six HBCU teams
Special to MLB.com

The Urban Invitational has returned to New Orleans under a new name: the Andre Dawson Classic.

The 2018 Classic marks the fifth straight year that New Orleans has hosted the tournament, which features six historically black colleges and universities, the most in the tournament's 11-year history, along with the University of New Orleans and University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Urban Invitational has returned to New Orleans under a new name: the Andre Dawson Classic.

The 2018 Classic marks the fifth straight year that New Orleans has hosted the tournament, which features six historically black colleges and universities, the most in the tournament's 11-year history, along with the University of New Orleans and University of Illinois at Chicago.

Southern University is the only school in the field to have competed in all 11 tournaments, while University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff is making its first appearance. Alabama State, Alcorn State, Grambling State University and Prairie View A&M are the other HBCUs taking part.

Dawson pleased to lend name to collegiate tourney

The eight-team, round-robin tournament will be played at UNO's Maestri Field and the New Orleans Major League Baseball Academy starting at noon on Friday and concluding Sunday evening.

Dawson is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and was an eight-time All-Star in his 21-year career. In that time, he racked up 2,774 hits, 1,591 RBIs and 498 home runs. Dawson is one of five players in MLB history with 400-plus homers and 300-plus steals.

"It is with the utmost appreciation that I take this opportunity to thank MLB for this honor," said Dawson, a Florida A&M graduate, in the tournament press release. "I am a product of an HBCU program that provided me an opportunity to pursue a college education while chasing a childhood dream. I am both honored and humbled to play a role in empowering students to be leaders in their communities and strive to improve and impact the lives of others."

Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson and former MLB player and manager Jerry Manuel, along with former MLB players Dimitri Young and Marvin Freeman, are set to make special appearances during the tournament.

Granderson, a UIC graduate, will throw out the first pitch in Saturday's game between UIC and Southern at 3 p.m. ET. Both that game and the following one between Alabama State and UNO scheduled for 7 p.m. ET will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com.

Along with the Classic, Saturday's festivities include a Play Ball event that helps teach youth players the fundamentals of the game, a junior home run derby and a battle of the bands, all taking place at the New Orleans Youth Academy.

Brandon Adam is a contributor to MLB.com.