How Aaron Invitational brought together high schooler, civil rights leader

August 1st, 2022

ATLANTA -- Sunday’s Hank Aaron Invitational was a big moment for Florida high school shortstop George Lombard Jr., since he got to perform at a showcase on a Major League field. But it was especially sweet because of whom he got to meet before the game at Truist Park.

Lombard’s grandmother, Posy, was a civil rights advocate in the 1960s. Coming down from New England, she was in Montgomery, Ala., when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched from Selma in 1965, and she protested alongside civil rights icon Andrew Young, who was a keynote speaker on Sunday.

Lombard had heard stories from his father, a former Major Leaguer who is currently the Detroit Tigers bench coach, about Young, but it was special to finally meet the man who struck up a friendship with his grandmother.

“All the experience he has and what he’s gone through in his life is pretty special and an inspiring story,” Lombard said. “Learning a little more about my grandmother and his friendship with her and his connection with her, it’s information that I can’t really get anywhere else.”

Lombard and his father knew stories about Posy’s work in the movement, but the murder of George Floyd in 2020 spurred them to dig even more. And hearing Young speak only helped paint a better picture.

“The character that she had and how she was able to fight all this, she was out of the norm, coming from the northeast as a white female to fight for African American people in the south,” Lombard said. “She had to face hate from people, and how she was able to handle it and how she was able to carry herself through everything, that’s something you look up to and is very special.”

Young had plenty to share, with his deep roots in the civil rights movement. After leading the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he served as a U.S. congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta.

In his pregame speech, Young also wanted to impart on the players the importance of baseball in the American tradition.

“What they're doing is not just their success,” Young said on MLB Network. “That like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron and many others … you have been part of the glue that keeps America together, that allows us to overcome our differences and to root for one team."

Lombard was one of the top performers in Team Robinson’s 8-3 win over Team Aaron on Sunday, scoring two runs after working a pair of walks. But just as crucial was what he took away from meeting Young and working with dozens of former Major Leaguers on the Hank Aaron Invitational coaching staff.

“There’s not many places in the world where you can get so much information in a single place,” Lombard said. “Just being there and taking everything in like a sponge was the biggest thing for us, because you know how much experience all these guys have.”