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Panel highlights Negro Leagues Legacy Luncheon

Former player Teasley among those to talk during inaugural event at Tiger Club

DETROIT -- About 150 local high school baseball players gathered in Comerica Park's Tiger Club on Friday afternoon for the inaugural Negro Leagues Weekend Legacy Luncheon.

The event, which was presented by the Detroit Tigers Foundation, featured several of the more prominent African-American figures in Detroit baseball history.

Students from Detroit schools listened to a panel that included former Negro Leagues player Ron Teasley, Tigers assistant hitting coach Darnell Coles and third-base coach Dave Clark, as well as FOX Sports Detroit broadcasters Rod Allen and Craig Monroe.

All of the panelists maintain strong ties to Detroit, none stronger than those of Teasley, who was the second African-American to play for the city's Northwestern High School. After batting .400, he played for Detroit's Wayne State University before earning an invitation to try out for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Teasley knows that the process for a young star to get noticed by scouts is significantly different than when he played. But even in the age of highlight tapes, he said the most foolproof method remains the same.

"The best way [to get noticed] is to play good baseball," he said.

According to Allen, competitive travel baseball, which has become far more prevalent, "doesn't get to the inner cities" in some cases.

"I think it's a little bit of a disadvantage for us at times," said Allen, who played on the Tigers' World Series championship team in 1984. "But if you can hit, they'll find you. If you can play, they'll find you."

Teasley paid homage to Jackie Robinson for the strides he took in integrating the sport.

"Had it not been for his ability to withstand all of the hard knocks he had to take, it would've taken a much longer time for us to get into Major League Baseball," Teasley said.

The panelists fielded questions from students who wondered, among other things, how the sport has changed since the days of the Negro Leagues, in addition to becoming integrated.

"First of all, the stadiums and the fields, how manicured they are. When we played, they were not like that," Teasley said.

"The travel conditions are also much better. We would travel 400 miles on a bus."

Overlooking the sun-soaked, immaculate Comerica Park playing surface, a far cry from the fields Teasley played on, the young players wondered how they might one day ascend to such great heights in their baseball careers.

Monroe, who played in the 2006 World Series for Detroit, cautioned the high-school teams in attendance to stay humble, do their homework and to always have a backup plan in case baseball doesn't work out.

"When you step on the field, if you're the best player, you need to show you're the best player," said Coles, who played for the Tigers in 1986 and '87. "My advice to you young men and women is to do whatever it takes to get better. And when you step on the field, leave no doubt."

Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for

Detroit Tigers