MLB launches Black History Month initiatives
January 31st, 2023
Major League Baseball today announced the launch of a new MLB Originals Series “Undeniable – Stories from the Negro Leagues,” a contemporary storytelling platform to amplify and honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues. Undeniable, MLB’s first-ever animated series, is a key initiative among several meaningful efforts by MLB, as well as Major & Minor League Clubs, to celebrate Black History Month.
“UNDENIABLE – Stories from the Negro Leagues”
- Animated series telling unique short stories from the historic era of the Negro Leagues, narrated by Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
- “Undeniable” was a collaborative project between Major League Baseball, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Black-owned creative entities Invisible Collective and Martian Blueberry, creatively spearheaded by Invisible’s founder and baseball fanatic Justin Polk.
- In the new MLB series “Undeniable,” co-directors Justin Polk and Carl Jones (“The Boondocks,” “Black Dynamite”) shine a light on the Negro Leagues’ impact on the game, including its most legendary players, its historic female ballplayers, and the Negro Leagues’ influence internationally. Director Justin Polk, founder of Invisible Collective, creative-directed the series and partnered with Invisible director Carl Jones and his animation studio, Martian Blueberry, whose animation expertise brings each story to life.
- Three episodes – all approximately five minutes in length – will air during Black History Month:
-- February 1 (National Girls & Women in Sports Day) – Women of the Negro Leagues
-- Featuring the stories of Toni Stone, Connie Morgan and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson
-- February 8 – International Impact
-- February 15 – Jackie Robinson & Monte Irvin
- Episodes will be featured on MLB.com/originals, MLB.tv and the MLB app, with additional promotional support from MLB Network and MLB social media platforms.
-- 30 second preview of Episode 1
- “Andre Dawson Classic” – The annual collegiate baseball tournament launched by MLB in 2008 to highlight HBCUs and their baseball programs. Two showcase games will air LIVE on MLB Network and stream on MLB.com.
- February 24-26 at the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy and University of New Orleans Maestri Field
- Participating HBCU Teams: Alabama A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Florida A&M University, Southern University, Jackie State University, Alabama State University and Grambling State University.
- Also includes non-HBCU University of New Orleans
- A corresponding 12u tournament consisting of teams from RBI programs in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and New Orleans will held in celebration of the Andre Dawson Classic.
- This tournament is a precursor to the HBCU Swingman Classic, which is powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation and Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., scheduled for 2023 All-Star Week in Seattle.
- “Undeniable” Screenings & MLB Career Chats – Representatives from MLB will visit two Historically Black College & University (HBCU) campuses to screen episodes of “Undeniable.” Following the screenings, students will learn about career opportunities at the Commissioner’s Office and around the League. The two scheduled dates are:
-- January 31 – Southern University
-- February 23 – Bowie State University
- Students at Bowie State also will hear from representatives from Invisible Collective and Martian Blueberry how the project came to life, covering the different phases of animation and production, while also having the opportunity to participate in a Q&A.
- Future Leaders Program – On February 6th, the MLB Black Employee Resource Group (ERG) will host a virtual panel discussion for baseball & softball student-athletes at HBCU programs. The panel will feature MLB employees who are former professional and collegiate players themselves as they discuss their transition from student-athlete to MLB professionals. Participating programs include Claflin, Morehouse and Florida A&M.
- Career, Internship & Graduate School Fairs – MLB’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion groups will be joined by several Clubs at two HBCU institutions, including Morehouse College (Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays) and Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta Braves & Miami Marlins – MLB; Gwinnett Stripers - MiLB).
- Southern University Law Center Visit – MLB Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Quest Meeks will conduct a “lunch & learn” with HBCU law students about his career path and future legal career opportunities with MLB.
- “Saturday Night Lights” Career Panel – MLB Black and Mets Black ERGs are teaming up with the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development for two career panels on February 4th and February 11th. Each night, the groups will speak to 50-70 youth from programs focused on youth development and violence prevention.
- “Say Hey, Willie Mays!” Documentary Screening for Boys & Girls Club Kids – On February 17th, MLB will host up to 40 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem (NY) at MLB Headquarters for a special screening of the critically-acclaimed documentary “Say Hey, Willie Mays!” Prior to the screening, the kids will have a chance to speak with film director Nelson George.
Spotlight on Black Professionals & Black-Owned Businesses
- Support for Black-owned Businesses – MLB will spotlight five local Black-owned businesses and their services to MLB employees at the Commissioner’s Office.
- Diversity Pipeline Program Highlights – Cross-collaboration with MLB.com, MLB Network and MLB social media platforms to highlight up-and-coming African American talent throughout the sport, including front office executives, managers, scouts, coaches and more.
- SABR Conference Scholarships – For the seventh consecutive year, MLB will sponsor a diverse group of qualifying students who are interested in a baseball operations career to receive a scholarship to attend the annual SABR Analytics Conference, which will be held in March. The Conference is a three-day event (March 10-12) on the impact of analytics on the game of baseball. Students also will have an opportunity to participate in skill development sessions and networking opportunities with current MLB and Club employees. Throughout February, students can apply with their resumes and a personal essay at https://boards.greenhouse.io/mlbevents/jobs/4808649. MLB has provided more than 200 scholarships through 2022, with many scholarship recipients receiving career opportunities with MLB Clubs and the Commissioner’s Office, including present and alumni participants of the Diversity Fellowship Program.
Storytelling of the Past, Present & Future of Baseball
- MLB.com – In addition to month-long editorial coverage of all Black History Month efforts, MLB.com will tell compelling stories of Black American figures in baseball – (a) Jocko Maxwell, the first prominent Black baseball broadcaster; (b) Don Newcombe and Larry Doby playing professional baseball in Japan; and (c) effort to pay respects to the Pittsburgh Negro Leagues players from the 1920-30s who were buried under unmarked graves.
- MLB Network – Will produce several video campaigns featuring legendary former players and current Major Leaguers, including:
- “MLB’s Black History Month by the Numbers Presented by Nike”: 28 daily vignettes of players with symbolic or direct ties to the corresponding February date number. For instance, February 4th will feature the 4 players to steal 100 bases in a season (Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Maury Wills and Vince Coleman). Other examples include the following:
- Additional short vignettes will be seen throughout MLB Network broadcasts featuring legendary figures include Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe Morgan, Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith and others.
- Videos of current Major Leaguers revealing songs or artists that inspire them.
- MLB Social Media – MLB Social will publish content throughout the month that aims to celebrate and educate on the profound impact Black players, coaches, executives and personnel have had on the evolution and growth of the game. MLB will highlight Negro Leagues and Major League stars of the past, while also looking forward, elevating the voice of current Black leaders throughout the sport. There will be Instagram Live takeovers, longer-form video content and unique art – all meant to celebrate Black excellence and its impact on Major League Baseball.
- Social media content also will highlight future MLB hopefuls who participated in the most recent DREAM Series.
- Minor League Social Media – Minor League teams will post on their team feeds and on MiLB social platforms, highlighting team records held by Black American players, local reflections of Negro Leagues teams in their areas, and a “9 Questions” feature with former players from their franchise’s history.
- “The Other Boys of Summer” Screenings at MiLB Ballparks – More than 20 Minor League ballparks around the country will host special screenings of the “The Other Boys of Summer,” a documentary exploring racism, segregation and civil rights through the lives of Negro Leagues players.
MLB & MiLB Club Activities
Clubs throughout MLB will support Black History Month, with examples are featured here: