For the eight Black players on the Mariners’ roster, the patch on their navy blue road jerseys for the series finale in Houston meant a little something more than a 100-year anniversary; it meant honoring those who came before them who didn’t have the opportunities they have today.

Major League Baseball celebrated the centennial of the founding of the Negro Leagues across baseball Sunday. All uniforms for players, coaches and umpires had a patch commemorating the anniversary, which was a derivative design of the official logo created by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

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That his start against the Astros came on this day was something extra for Justus Sheffield.

“Yeah, definitely 100%,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where you kind of step back and recognize the reason why you’re even out there playing the game. For us to be able to celebrate, you know, the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues is huge and amazing. And, you know, there’s not many of us out there, pitchers especially, so to be able to get a start on this day, it meant a lot.”

The Mariners’ Black players, along with broadcaster Dave Sims, have been very vocal about social injustice and racial equality in the months after the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

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Seattle manager Scott Servais has encouraged them to speak out on social media and within the clubhouse, educating teammates about their experiences.

“It’s good organizationally for us to promote those guys and give them a voice and a platform to speak up,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job organizationally as far as that goes.”

As part of the 100th anniversary, the Mariners opened up the application process for their recently created “On BASE (Baseball and Softball Everywhere) Hometown Nine” initiative. It’s a program that is “designed to make sports more equitable and accessible for all young athletes regardless of any barriers they may face.”

The program works with the input and encouragement of current Mariners players to help kids from under-served communities of color to play baseball and softball, giving them opportunities to play from eighth grade through their senior year of high school by paying for all fees associated with travel, training and equipment for those sports.

Seattle will choose nine incoming eighth graders from the group of applicants submitted. They must meet the following criteria to be considered:

  • Be legally enrolled as a full-time incoming eighth-grade student in King, Pierce, or Snohomish counties through June 2021;
  • Demonstrate financial need;
  • Demonstrate athletic ability to participate in elite/select baseball or softball;
  • Be from a historically marginalized community, including communities of color;
  • Possess strong character and be engaged in their community.

The plan is to continue adding nine students to the program each year with a five-year commitment to each.  

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Once in the program, every student will be paired with a Mariners player and Mariners front office mentor, whom they will meet with quarterly to provide academic and professional guidance. As the students move through their high school careers, the Mariners will tailor the events for each student “to be responsive to their academic development, including college prep, essay writing help and more in their later years.”

Applications must be submitted by Sept. 7. The On BASE Hometown Nine committee will review all applications by Sept. 13 with finalists selected and notified by Sept. 16.

For more details: https://www.mlb.com/mariners/community/on-base/hometown-nine

Kikuchi injury update

Yusei Kikuchi’s neck spasms are improving thanks to some muscle relaxers and treatment from the Mariners medical staff. However, Servais’ hope that Kikuchi might be re-inserted into the starting rotation early has dissipated.

Kikuchi’s next turn in the rotation would be Thursday at T-Mobile Park against the Dodgers.