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.
Olympic baseball is back for the first time since 2008, and a few notable MLBbros are onboard.
USA Baseball released its 28-man training camp roster on Sunday, and five Black players are in the lineup. Among those players are major league veterans Matt Kemp, Edwin Jackson, and Anthony Gose, and minor leaguers Clayton Andrews and Simeon Woods Richardson. The final roster will be cut to 26 on Sunday, May 30.
“I’ve put on a lot of different jerseys, but this one will be special in a different way,” said Jackson to MLBbro.com on Monday. “I’m not only playing to represent myself and my family but our country.”
Kemp began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2006-2014, where he earned two all-star appearances, two Golden Gloves, and two Silver Slugger awards. After brief stints with the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves, the 36-year-old outfielder returned to the Dodgers in 2018 where he earned his third all-star appearance in an incredible comeback story.
He played for the Cincinnati Reds in 2019, and the Colorado Rockies in 2020 where he batted .239 with six home runs in 43 games. He is currently unsigned but could earn MLB teams’ interest with a strong showing in the Olympics.
Jackson made history in 2019 by pitching for his 14th different major league team, the most by any player in history. The 37-year-old played 17 years in the majors, earning an all-star appearance in 2009 with the Detroit Tigers, where he struck out 161 with 70 walks and posted an ERA+ of 125.
Gose played centerfield for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2012-2014 and for the Detroit Tigers from 2016-2016, batting .240/.309/.348 over his five-year major league career. Since leaving the Tigers, the 30-year-old has converted to pitcher and played in the minors within the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers organizations before joining the Cleveland Indians AA affiliate team in 2021.
Andrews was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018 and currently plays for their AA affiliate team. Through seven games, the 24-year-old lefthander is 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA. His ability to make batters swing and miss is evident as he struck out 11 with 7 walks in 9 innings. His WHIP sits at 1.29.
Woods Richardson was drafted by the New York Mets in 2018, and the 20-year-old right-hander is 1-0 through four games with the Toronto Blue Jays AA affiliate team. He currently has a 2.37 ERA with 31 strikeouts and eight walks in 19 innings. His WHIP sits at 1.16.
No players currently on MLB rosters are participating in the qualifiers as the Olympics will be held during the season. The team will be managed by Mike Scioscia.
The Road to Tokyo for the U.S. starts with the Americas Olympic Qualifier against Nicaragua on May 31 at 5 p.m. ET from Clover Park in St. Lucie, Florida. The qualifying tournament also features the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Canada, Venezuela and Colombia, and the winner will clinch the fifth spot in the Olympics.
The second-and third-place teams from the tournament will then compete with the Netherlands, Australia and Taiwan, and for the sixth and final spot.
Baseball is returning to the Olympics this year for the first time since the 2008 Games in Beijing, where USA Baseball took home the bronze medal. The U.S. won its only gold medal in baseball in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and looks to return to the mountaintop once again this summer.