The Hank Aaron Invitational is a two-week baseball extravaganza camp held from July 17- 30 at Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Florida. It’s operated by MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball. Approximately 250 Black and brown players (ages 13-18) from across the United States receive elite-level training from former Major League players and coaches.
Instructors include former Major League manager Jerry Manuel and former All-Stars such as Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., his dad Ken Griffey Sr, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Tom “Flash” Gordon, Marquis Grissom, Reggie Smith, Luis Alicea, Willie Banks, Lou Collier, Eric Davis, Marvin Freeman, Charles Johnson, Pat Mahomes Sr, among others.
Bo Porter, a former MLB player, manager, coach, executive, and Washington Nationals announcer is also one of the instructors. Porter currently serves as MLB’s Director of Coaching Development.
In the spirit of the Hank Aaron Invitational and its commitment to leveling out the playing field for minority athletes, Porter has an academy that opened out of Texas in 2021 called Bo Porter’s Future All-Stars Sports Development Academy. Former Olympic gold medalist and 15-year minor league pro, John Cotton, is Director of Baseball Operations for the academy.
The goal of the facility is to inspire student-athletes and future MLBbros to achieve whole-person development, educating and advising parents, and empowering educators and coaches to become transformational leaders.
Da Gambler caught up with these baseball lifers as they evaluated talent at the Hank Aaron Invitational this past week.
There was a power surge from the Black Knights despite the absence of brotherly love in Philadelphia.
The Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies finished a brief but contentious two-game series with the rising tension of the National League East division race beaming on Wednesday afternoon.
Andrew McCutchen and Josh Bell hit grand slams in a game of electrifying offense following a night where Nationals manager Davy Martinez and Phillies Joe Girardi nearly came to blows after Max Scherzer was inspected for foreign substances one day after Major League Baseball started policing its pitchers for sticky fingers.
McCutchen blasted a grand slam (his 13th of the season) to left-center field off Kyle McGowin which put the Phillies up 9-5. The Nationals’ sputtering offense then got a jolt in the top of the 6th from the struggling Bell.
“I’ve been waiting on drilling a baseball in a big moment there for a little this season,” Bell said. “Especially on a fastball. I’ve been trying to drive the ball the other way all season long and been rolling over into the shift in big situations. It feels like things are starting to turn around for me.”
The Nats’ victory was their ninth in the last 10 games. Suddenly, Washington has now moved into second place and is within 3.5 games of the New York Mets heading into their four-game weekend series in Miami Marlins and their Black Knight Jazz Chisholm.
Mark Gray steps to the plate to debate which league has the better MLBbros. Boston Globe beat writer Julian McWilliams takes a break from covering the Red Sox to offer his pro insight on the shining Black Knights of the game.
Finally, the Chicago White Sox saw Tim Anderson in the lineup and not just on the cover of his video game. The White Sox resident batting champ and web gem manufacturer returned from a 10-day bit on the injured list in time to strap up for Jackie Robinson Day with #42 on his back Thursday afternoon.
Anderson is one of the MLB bros who have been sidelined with injuries after returning from the warmth of spring training in the sunbelt to the arctic refrigerators of the north. For years players – like Anderson — appear to be ready to hit the season in high gear only to be physically throttled down by strains and pulls that accompany opening games on the frozen tundra.
Nothing says to the Boys of Summer, “let’s get back to work” like night games on Lake Michigan in early April.
In his return from the pale hose M*A*S*H unit Anderson was 2-for-5 and scored once as the White Sox lost to the Cleveland Indians 4-3. Perhaps it was the time spent with the joystick that jump-started the big stick at the plate. Before the injury, he was hitting .200. Friday’s game against Boston was rained out so let’s see how the charismatic face of MLB for Nike does next time out.
Another early-season casualty is Minnesota’s Byron Buxton who was not in Rocco Baldelli’s lineup for a third straight day as the Twins handled their business against the Boston Red Sox and beat them in a Jackie Robinson Day matinee’ 4-3. Buxton is dealing with what is being called hamstring tightness and the move appears cautionary.
Still, another body trying to adapt to the colder weather after a short regular season followed by what may be considered a rushed offseason, Buxton’s setback is another that could be attributed to the weather.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, $150M, free agent acquisition George Springer is still sidelined. After starting the season on the injured list because of a Grade 2 oblique strain, Springer is currently dealing with a quad injury he incurred last week while running. That’s bad news because it seemed as if Springer was close to game action before the quad issue popped up. He’s missed the first 13 games and Toronto (6-7) sits three games behind 9-4 Boston.
Seattle swept a doubleheader on Jackie Robinson Day and are sitting atop the AL West at 8-5 entering Friday night’s game. Surprisingly, they’ve done all of this without their 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis.
Lewis was expected to have an MVP-type season in centerfield for Seattle, but a deep bone bruise has him sidelined since the beginning of the season.
The Seattle Mariners have gotten very little offensive production from their center fielders in Lewis’ absence. Mariners centerfielders have hit .139 with 21 strikeouts in 36 at-bats this season, entering Thursday. Backup, Taylor Trammel has shown flashes of brilliance but has also been largely overwhelmed by MLB pitching.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said Thursday that the team is “very optimistic” centerfielder Lewis will play during Seattle’s two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which begins Monday.
Let’s hope so because we can’t have our elite Black Knights on the sidelines. There are already too few of them in the game.