The four coaches in this weekend’s Urban Invitational college baseball event in Baton Rouge and New Orleans agree that Major League Baseball’s New Orleans Urban Youth Academy – and similar programs – can be a boon for their programs in the years to come. The proliferation of travel baseball teams, not so much.
LSU, UNO, Southern and Grambling will take part in the seventh Urban Invitational, hosted by Major League Baseball, this weekend in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
LSU and UNO will meet Friday at Alex Box Stadium at 6:30 p.m. and again Saturday at 2 p.m. at Zephyr Field. Grambling and Southern will meet Friday at the Jaguars’ Lee Hines Field at 6 p.m. and Saturday at Wesley Barrow Stadium at 1 p.m.
On Sunday, UNO and Southern will battle at 1 p.m. with LSU meeting Grambling at 4 p.m. Both games will be played at Alex Box.
On Saturday morning, coaches and players of the teams will conduct a free youth clinic at Barrow, which headquarters the Youth Academy, beginning at 9 a.m.
UNO coach Ron Maestri said the Youth Academy is a gem for New Orleans and has already helped teach inner-city youth about not only baseball but also other life skills through educational and vocational programs.
“The inner-city youth in many of our cities have suffered because the recreational programs are very limited,” Maestri said. “What they’ve done (at the Youth Academy) is nothing short of sensational. I’ve been over there on several occasions for clinics. They have kids coming from everywhere. I really believe it could be the single best thing that has ever happened to this city.
“We’ve talked about the lack of African-American players in college and professional ranks. We have a $5.5 million facility (at Barrow). They’re doing a great job not only in baseball but with the education component.”
The MLB Network will carry two of these games on Sunday. And, I can’t wait to check them out. Baseball…what better way to deal with all this cold weather and snow?