'Amazing' experience for players at Native American All-Star Showcase

June 10th, 2024
Twenty-plus tribal affiliations from 16 states and Canada were represented.Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA -- The final day of the Braves’ third annual Native American All-Star Showcase -- a weekend workout, home run derby and all-star game at Truist Park featuring the top 50 Native American high school baseball players -- pitted Team Red against Team Blue on Sunday, and Team Blue earned a 7-2 win.

The 50 players, with representation from 20-plus tribes and 16 states and Canada, were split into two 25-man squads and they played a nine-inning contest in which Team Blue’s pitching was dominant.

Team Blue pitchers allowed two runs on five hits and combined for 12 strikeouts.

Team Blue scored in five of the eight innings it came to the plate but a run in the first and three in the second was all Team Blue needed. Nathaniel Carpenter (Broome High School, South Carolina) got the scoring going with a two-out RBI single in the top of the first.

Team Blue added three runs on three hits in the bottom of the second. Talan Rush (Collinsville High School, Oklahoma) tallied an RBI double and Ty Freeman’s (Greenwood High School, Arkansas) RBI single gave Team Blue a 3-0 lead and that hit proved to be the game-winner.

‘It’s amazing, honestly’

Not many high school baseball players get the opportunity to compete in a Major League stadium. The 50 student-athletes spent their entire weekend on the grounds of Truist Park.

Saturday featured a pro-style workout and home run derby that allowed the players to get a feel for the size and scope of an MLB park before playing in a game on Sunday.

Jawan Taylor, who played for Team Blue on Sunday, is out of Arizona’s Alchesay High School and is affiliated with the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Taylor reflected on the scene at Truist Park prior to Sunday’s game.

“It’s amazing, honestly,” Taylor said. “Just to be here inside the stadium is cool. You don’t get this chance often and it’s just a surreal moment to be here.”

Taylor plays third base, first base and he pitches. Taylor took the mound on Sunday and delivered a scoreless top of the sixth.

Getting to Truist Park was a journey in more ways than one for Taylor. After applying for the showcase and getting accepted, Taylor and his parents had to fundraise.

“It took a lot of effort,” Taylor said. “[My parents] put a lot of work into it [with] a lot of fundraising [and] donations we got from my tribe, sponsorships and everything. We made the 23-hour drive [from Arizona] out here. We did it in two days. We got here though.”

Jordan Davis, a Neshoba Central High School (Mississippi) graduate who played center field for Team Red, just wanted to get a hit during Sunday’s contest.

The student-athletes received Major League coaching during the showcase.Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

“Hopefully I’ll get a hit and make a play in the outfield and stuff like that,” Davis said.

Davis did exactly that, as he went 2-for-2 with two singles and a walk and he had a putout in center field.

It was Davis’ second year at the showcase and he will be playing at Mississippi Gulf Community College in the upcoming school year. Davis believes the showcase helped him get exposure to play at the next level.

“If I wouldn’t have committed to that college in Mississippi, there were some coaches who were calling my mom up to a month ago trying to get me to come to college [there],” Davis said. “It did [give me extra exposure]. Just playing in front of the scouts, it did.”

Learning from the former pros

Greg McMichael, Braves senior director of alumni relations and growing the game, is one of at least six Braves player alumni who are involved in the showcase.

Though Marquis Grissom wasn’t present this weekend -- he was coaching at the MLB Develops Breakthrough Series in Vero Beach, Fla. -- the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association ran Saturday’s pro-style workout.

Terry Pendleton, Jerome Walton, Terry Harper and Johnny Estrada were all on-hand as coaches.

“They’re just teaching us things that they were taught,” Davis said. “They’re making sure we’re doing it right. If we don’t do it right, they make us do it again. As long as you’re coachable, that’s easy for you.”

Know your numbers

Sunday’s game utilized TrackMan Baseball. TrackMan Baseball is a technology company that captures, tracks and delivers player statistics.

McMichael explained why TrackMan was used on Sunday.

“Most showcases will [use TrackMan] so kids can have their numbers,” McMichael said. “They can use that to [send] to colleges that are interested in them. Major League Baseball is allowing us to track everything that they’re doing.”

Top high school baseball players of Native American descent went through a pro-style workout on the field at Truist Park.Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

Postgame photoshoot

Immediately after Sunday’s game, players and player mentors posed in between the mound and second base for a group photo with their respective tribal flags.

After the group photo session concluded, players’ families were permitted onto the field for photos with the student-athletes.