The original Swingman, Griffey meets Chevy Fellows before namesake event

July 8th, 2023

SEATTLE -- Hall of Famer leaned over the purple padded rail near first base at Husky Ballpark, smiled and motioned to a group of young people seated in the stands.

Then he waved them over again.

It was really happening.

The 2023 Chevrolet Discover the Unexpected (DTU) Fellows invited to attend the HBCU Swingman Classic, presented by T-Mobile & powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, were actually going to talk to the event’s namesake. The meet-and-greet was among many the highlights during the group’s memorable trip to Seattle.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for these students, and you have to really remove yourself from the situation to understand the magnitude of what is happening,” said journalist Tiffany Greene, who served as the mentor for the Fellows during their time in Seattle. “These students are soaking up everything that has come their way. They are getting the opportunity to show that they are just as good as others and can stand toe-to-toe.”

DTU is a Chevrolet brand-building partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) that reinforces their long-standing relationship with the Black community. DTU provides students from HBCUs an internship to help jumpstart their careers in marketing and journalism. Chevrolet is a long-time sponsor of Major League Baseball.

“This is very exciting, and I applaud Chevy for even having the Fellowship because diversity of thought is really important,” said Tony Reagins, MLB’s chief baseball development officer. “The questions the Fellows had for me were very thoughtful, and it was an honor to be able to share part of my story with them. Hopefully I was able to encourage them and they can see something in my journey that can inspire them.”

As part of the 2023 Chevrolet Discover the Unexpected program, the DTU Fellows interviewed Swingman Classic players and attended batting practice while documenting their experience.

“It’s been really exciting to see how things work behind the scenes and a lot of fun,” said Jacob Bellevue of Howard University. “This internship is an amazing opportunity for HBCU students to find a way to their respective fields and get a sense of how to move forward in their career in a professional space.”

Ken Griffey Jr. poses with Chevy DTU Fellows.

In addition to Bellevue, Eshe Ukweli (Howard University), Antonio Sweeney (Morehouse College), Brielle Smith (Howard University), Solomon Hayes (Morehouse College), Bertney Harlan (Howard University), Carmen Graham (Delaware State University), Jordan Jennings (Florida A&M University), Janiya Pearson (Hampton University) and Jada Tullos (Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University) are also serving as Fellows.

Additionally, MLB expanded its partnership with Getty Images by inviting two mentees from Getty’s HBCU Photographer Mentorship and Grant Program, along with an MLB HBCU student photography summer intern to photograph the Swingman Classic and surrounding events. Getty Images is curating an exhibit highlighting HBCU traditions, sports and culture inside player lounge spaces in the hotel.

Other philanthropic, educational and business-focused efforts specifically designed around the HBCU Swingman Classic included an HBCU Fair at T-Mobile Park organized by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, Griffey Jr. and the United Negro College Fund. There’s also the Black Play-by-Play Grant and Scholarship Fund, and a $15,000 donation to the United Negro College Fund and $15,000 to the National Pan-Hellenic Council Seattle chapter by MLB’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion department.

On Friday afternoon, Swingman Classic players participated in a leadership panel and luncheon with Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims, two-time World Series champion manager Cito Gaston, former manager Jerry Manuel and Southern University head coach Roger Cador. Alongside the participants, four local Black-owned vendors have prepackaged goods sold in the ballpark.

“This is a great opportunity for baseball, and I wanted to make sure we represented Junior the right way,” Reagins said. “This was a collective effort and a lot of groups worked together to make this reality. That just speaks to the importance of the event and the importance of the moment.”