Ken Griffey Sr. is one of the distinguished former MLB players, coaches and executives lending their expertise to the development of Black & brown players at The Hank Aaron Invitational in Vero Beach, Florida this week and next.
Ken Griffey Sr. was playing the outfield for the Big Red Machine when Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth on the all-time Home Run list with 714. He also caught the last out ever made by the great Willie Mays in 1973. The father of “The Kid” shares some of the most memorable moments of his 19-year career.
If you’re searching for the best Black baseball talent of today and the future, look no further than the Hank Aaron Invitational in Vero Beach, Florida, named after the greatest home run hitter to ever grace the diamond.
With Aaron’s unfortunate passing in January of 2021 and Black players being systemically eliminated from the game, the Invitational bearing Aaron’s name has become more impactful, important and necessary than ever.
“I’m humbled to have this program named in my honor and thrilled the showcase game will be played at SunTrust Park,” said Aaron, a few years before his passing, about the event which was originally called the Elite Invitational, “I applaud MLB and the Braves in their efforts to continue to assist with outreach so that opportunities are available to all.”
The Invitational currently has more than 100 alumni either playing in MLB, Club Minor League systems, or on the collegiate level.
Thursday completes Week 1 of the Hank Aaron Invitational, where 100 diverse amateur baseball athletes from over 17 states come to the Jackie Robinson Training Complex, in Vero Beach for a Black baseball extravaganza.
The first week of the amateur development camp began on Sunday, July 18. The event provides training and instruction from former Major League Players, coaches, and baseball executives for Black and brown ballers in the 2024 and 2025 graduating High School classes.
The week also includes special guest presentations and addresses. The Hank Aaron Invitational was created and developed by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation (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.
Following is a list of former MLB and MiLB players and coaches who will serve as instructors at the event. The wealth of knowledge is unrivaled by any developmental program in the country.
Former MLB Players as On-Field Coaches
Ken Griffey, Sr.
Former MiLB Players, Managers, Coaches & Executives
Tony Reagins, MLB Chief Baseball Development Officer
Del Matthews, MLB Vice President of Baseball Development
Dave Winfield, MLBPA Special Advisor to the Executive Director
Jeffrey Hammonds, MLBPA Associate Director, Player Programs, and Initiatives
Leonor Colon, MLBPA Senior Director, International and Domestic Player Operations
Bo Porter, MLB Consultant on Coaching Development
Gregor Blanco, MLB Senior Director, Baseball Operations
Stay tuned for more live coverage from Hank Aaron Invitational with MLBbro.com
An Atlanta public school is being renamed, taking on baseball legend Hank Aaron’s namesake over a Confederate general. A unanimous vote on Monday has decided the Forrest Hill Academy, named after Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest – is getting a name change for the better.
Forrest who was an original grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan is being replaced by a legendary Black athlete with major ties to Atlanta Georgia. The new name will be the Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy.
Atlanta's school board has voted to replace the name of Forrest Hill Academy (KKK leader's name) with baseball legend Hank Aaron. pic.twitter.com/BKOIkZFhYc
“The South has a lot to offer with respect to historical teachings and oppression, it’s very important that the history of the south is understood,” a school board member said
Aaron was born in 1934 in Mobile, Alabama, and began his professional career in the Negro Leagues in 1951. He debuted in MLB at age 23, with the Milwaukee Braves. The team moved to Atlanta in the 1960s. Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, and even through racial tension, he endured. While hunting down Ruth, Aaron received every death threat known to man, but he persevered and continued to be great.
Between 1954 and 1974, “Hammerin Hank” played 21 major league seasons as an Atlanta and Milwaukee Braves right fielder. He played his last two seasons as a Milwaukee Brewer in 1975-76. Aaron passed away in January 2021 at age 86tural causes.
This year’s MLB All-Star Game which was moved from the city of Atlanta following the new voter suppression laws was set to honor him in his city. The game has been moved to Denver and a celebration commemorating Aaron is still scheduled to take place.
Aaron is a Baseball Hall of Famer and World Series champion, but many know him because of his exploits and contributions to civil rights. The school district’s decision to change the school name from an association with bigotry and slavery to Aaron’s is common sense. Hank was the hope of a generation and transcended baseball. His bravery and talent had an effect on Black culture and American culture in every positive way imaginable and he continued to be a guiding light for baseball until his death.
Hank Aaron passed away back in January at age 86. Baseball has suffered some considerable losses in the past few years: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Dick Allen, Tony Fernandez, Tom Seaver, Tommy Lasorda and Don Sutton, just to name a few.
It seemed as if Aaron would live forever. Baseball’s “true” home run king was probably the second most influential African-American player in the history of the sport after Jackie Robinson. And an undeniable national treasure and inspiration for all.
One Home Run Changed The Game
Most can’t honestly understand what a single home run meant 47 years ago. After all, we have seen so much change since April 8, 1974. We even had a two-term African American president in Barack Obama.
If you think that was a pipedream in 1974, the same would be said about a black man having the most home runs in Major League Baseball history.
Before that historic blast, four days earlier, Aaron tied the iconic Babe Ruth with a bomb against “The Big Red Machine.
First, Jackie Robinson broke down the color barrier. Then, it was Aaron, making the national pastime ours.
Today is the 47th anniversary of Aaron’s 715th home run. Aaron’s homer off of Dodgers’ Al Downing at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium broke Babe Ruth‘s long-standing record of 714 home runs.
It was a mark most thought would stand forever.
It was such a big deal that not all celebrated. In fact, Aaron was more relieved than happy. Aaron received racist hate mail and death threats. His kids had security people watching over them during their dad’s pursuit of a piece of American history.
He came a long way from Mobile, Alabama. Born on Feb. 5, 1934, Henry Louis Aaron was one of eight children born to Herbert and Estella Aaron. As he challenged the mythical Babe Ruth for MLB’s scared record back in the 70s, he received death threats and racist taunts at the ballparks.
Aaron stood brave and prevailed.
The Braves have honored Aaron in so many ways over the years. In 2014 they wore 40th-anniversary patches on their uniform sleeves to mark the historic occasion. He was revered until his death at age 86.
And while some won’t forget Aaron’s shining moment, he doesn’t always get the props he deserves. After all, Aaron played 23 seasons and nearly averaged 100 RBI a season (2,297 RBI total). His production was as consistent as a windshield wiper and impactful as the words of James Baldwin.
Of course, Barry Bonds, another Black Knight, passed Aaron as baseball’s home run king. Aaron hit 755 and Bonds hit 762. The validity of Bonds’ homers is questioned by many baseball fans and HOF voters to this day.
But nearly a half-century ago, it was Aaron’s blast over the left-field fence in Atlanta that transformed America, allowing black people all over this country to take ownership of the greatest title in the land. Like they were sharing a big pot of Gumbo.
It’s a great moment in our history. A shining moment for Black baseball.