MLBbro.com’s Mark Gray set off the baseball season with a quick conversation with Deion Sanders AKA Coach Prime, who was preparing for an historic season as head coach of the Jackson State Football Team. Jackson State went 11-1 and won the school’s first SWAC title since 2007. Sanders also led them to the Celebration Bowl for the first time in school history, where the Tigers will meet MEAC Champ South Carolina State on Dec. 18, 2021.
In his prime, Deion was one of the greatest two-way athletes in sports history, simultaneously starring for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons at one point. Mark Gray asked the NFL Hall of Famer some Black baseball questions.
While the Nationals try to weather this COVID storm, veteran pitcher Joe Ross came through in the clutch and definitely made a strong case for a permanent spot in the rotation.
To everyone’s disappointment, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison are in COVID protocols and are yet to take the field this season. Price didn’t pitch and Mookie is day-to-day with back stiffness, so the soul of Friday’s game would have been nonexistent if not for Ross, who hasn’t pitched since losing Game 5 of the 2019 World Series.
The layoff served him well as the 27-year-old righty baffled Dodgers hitters for five innings allowing no runs, two hits and striking out four batters in a 1-0 Nats loss against the offensive juggernaut from the West Coast. Ross had a “shut yo mouth and pass the collard greens” performance, proving that he was the man for the mound.
Joe Ross through 5 innings against the 2020 World Series Champs LA Dodgers
He’s back ? pic.twitter.com/ux8LdMgrmL
— Talkin Nats (@TalkinNats) April 9, 2021
In fact, as soon as Ross exited the game, Justin Turner smashed a homer to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth. That was all they would need. It wouldn’t be hyperbole, however, to suggest that Ross threw a kink in the best-laid plans of Dodgers fans, who surely anticipated an obliteration on such a momentous occasion.
It was World Series “Ring Day” at Dodger Stadium and the fans came back to watch live pro baseball in LA on Friday. It was 548 days since fans walked through the gates of the historic ballpark.
In many ways, Ring Day was more than 30 years in the making as a 60-game COVID season, a ton of uncertainty and the proper dose of competitive spirit helped Dave Roberts, Mookie Betts and Magic Johnson’s ownership group win the franchise’s first World Series since 1988.
It was a huge win for Black baseball. There was a collective sigh released by LA baseball fans, who had suffered through two World Series losses in the past three seasons.
The Dodgers’ 2021 home opener seemed to be the perfect storm. As the fans returned to the ballpark, they got to truly share in an accomplishment and celebration that they were only allowed to witness on TV in 2020. Ring Day was like their World Series. The first time they could reach out and touch the moment (with a distance of six feet of course).
Mookie got his ring and a resounding ovation.
Mookie Betts gets his first standing ovation at Dodger Stadium while getting his championship ring ?
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 9, 2021
There was some uncertainty surrounding whether or not the Dodgers would award veteran Black Ace David Price a ring because he opted out of 2020, but his positive standing in the clubhouse and the championship leader he’s been since he arrived made it an easy decision for Dodgers brass.
Classy move by the Dodgers. In an even classier move, Price donated his ring to the Players Alliance.
So with 2020 in the rearview and baseball, as we know it pretty much back to normal, it’s time to focus on the task at hand. The matchup between the Dodgers and Washington Nationals on Friday featured baseball’s last two World Series Champions in what could very well be a preview of the 2021 Autumn Classic.
Before the season started, fans of Black baseball definitely had this home opener marked on the calendar as both teams feature elite MLB Bros. The Nationals acquired power-hitting first baseman Josh Bell during the offseason and when he does take the field, to his right will be veteran second baseman Harrison. The Dodgers, of course, have Betts and Price.
On Friday, Ross made sure that nobody forgets that he’s also an MLB Bro capable of delivering All-Star performances.