SAN DIEGO — Even though his playing days ended long ago, Mariners legend and Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. will have an impactful presence during the 2023 Major League Baseball All-Star festivities at T-Mobile Park.

Working with Griffey to promote in Black communities, MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced the launch of the inaugural “HBCU Swingman Classic” on Tuesday morning.

The “philanthropic and educational” event is an All-Star Game for student-athletes who play baseball for Division I programs at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU).

Per the news release, “The HBCU Swingman Classic, which will be powered by the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, will highlight the history and legacy of HBCU baseball programs while also providing 50 HBCU baseball players with the opportunity to showcase their talent on a national stage. The student-athletes will be selected by a committee that will include Griffey Jr., representatives from MLB and MLBPA, and scouts. Additional details about the HBCU Swingman Classic will be announced in the months ahead.”

Said Griffey in a statement:

“I am excited to help these kids get the national attention that they don’t receive compared to other college baseball programs. Over the years, we have seen the decline of African American players, not because they don’t want to play, but rather because they haven’t been seen. College scholarships for baseball are not comparative to other sports, and a lot of families cannot afford to pay the difference. So, this effort is the industry coming together to give these kids an opportunity to play the game they love on the national stage. Financial restrictions prevent them from going to schools that give more exposure. The HBCU Swingman Classic will try and close that gap.”

MLB boasts several HBCU alumni led by Hall of Famers Andre Dawson (Florida A&M) and Lou Brock (Southern University) as well as Marquis Grissom, Rickie Weeks Jr., Vince Coleman, Tommie Agee, Tom Alston, Earl Battey, Joe Black and others.


As an ambassador for the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, Griffey has worked to re-establish baseball’s popularity.

“Major League Baseball is thrilled to continue to work alongside Ken Griffey Jr. and the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation to bring this groundbreaking event to MLB All-Star Week,” Tony Reagins, MLB’s chief baseball development officer, said in a statement. “Highlighting the talent at HBCU Baseball programs is an important part of how we connect with college baseball while also improving African American representation at all levels of our game. We are excited to offer this opportunity to these players and for our fans to witness this new All-Star experience.”

MLB All-Star Week in 2023 will be hosted by the Mariners from July 7-11. The HBCU Swingman Classic is the latest major event added to the schedule of the annual midsummer classic, joining the MLB All-Star Game, the Home Run Derby, the Futures Game, the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game, the MLB Amateur Draft, the High School All-American Game and a serious of youth & fan engagement activities.