Following an unforgettable experience at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex (JRTC) in Vero Beach, Florida, 44 of the approximate 100 participants in the 2021 Hank Aaron Invitational have been selected to play in a showcase game at Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, on Saturday, July 31. The young men will be led to this special opportunity in Atlanta by Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., who spent time with the student-athletes, alongside his father Ken Griffey Sr., at the JRTC. The Hank Aaron Invitational, powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation in partnership with USA Baseball, is the premier diversity-focused baseball development experience for high school-age baseball players in the United States.
Spanning 16 states and Puerto Rico, the 44 players -- an homage to the number that the legendary Aaron wore throughout his Hall of Fame career -- will represent their communities in the showcase event after earning their spots following a week-long program of competition, coaching and evaluation. They were selected by their JRTC coaches, all of whom were former Major League players, managers or coaches. Notably, the showcase game rosters include five players from the greater Atlanta region, three players from the MLB Youth Academies in Compton and New Orleans, several from RBI programs around the country and many others from programs that are providing high-quality coaching and mentorship year-round. All players are expected to graduate high school in 2022 or 2023.
The rosters will be broken down into two teams -- "Team Hank Aaron" and "Team Jackie Robinson," managed/coached by the following:
Marquis Grissom (Manager)
Lou Collier (Manager)
The Hank Aaron Invitational Showcase Game is scheduled on Saturday, July 31, at 10 a.m. ET, with gates opening at 9 a.m. ET. Admission for the game is free. Also beginning at 9 a.m., Griffey Jr. will help hand out youth baseball & softball equipment to the first 100 children arriving for the game, courtesy of the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation in partnership with Pitch In For Baseball & Softball.
Media wishing to access the Hank Aaron Invitational at Truist Park must RSVP to: [email protected].
Prior to this showcase game, the Braves will host the players and coaches at the Center for Civil & Human Rights: Moments of Courage Exhibit on Friday, July 30, at 10 a.m. The group will be joined by Atlanta Braves Chief People Capital Officer DeRetta Rhodes and Ambassador Andrew Young, who will share stories of his late friend Henry "Hank" Aaron. That evening, the 44 players will be joined by Griffey Jr. as they are recognized on the field prior to the Braves contest against the Milwaukee Brewers.
In addition to meeting Ambassador Young and Griffey Jr., these young men along with all other players from the developmental portion of the Hank Aaron Invitational were treated to a memorable opportunity on and off the field at the JRTC this past week. In complement to being instructed by dozens of former Major League players, managers and coaches on the field, they heard from a notable list of guests from throughout the baseball community, including MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick, Baseball Head Coach of the Michigan Wolverines Erik Bakich and Baseball Head Coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils Tracy Smith.
FACTS ABOUT THE HANK AARON INVITATIONAL:
- The event started in 2015 as the Elite Development Invitational but was renamed at the 2018 World Series to the Hank Aaron Invitational to honor the legacy of the legendary Hall of Famer.
- The event is powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, which is a joint initiative by MLB and MLBPA to support efforts that focus on improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and internationally.
- Over the last three MLB Drafts, 34 alumni of this event were selected including 2020 first-round pick Ed Howard (Chicago Cubs), as well as 2019 second-round picks Nasim Nuñez (Miami Marlins) and Kyren Paris (Los Angeles Angels), and third-round pick Mike Harris (Atlanta Braves).
- In total, more than 200 alumni of the program are playing baseball professionally in Club Minor League systems or on the collegiate level. This equates to nearly 95% of the participants who graduated high school in 2016-2020.
PHOTOS FROM MORNING WORKOUT OF 44 HAI SHOWCASE PLAYERS AT THE JACKIE ROBINSON TRAINING COMPLEX (photo credit: Jared Blais, MLB Photos via Getty Images)