By Ebone’ Parks
The Birmingham Times
The Piper Davis Youth Baseball League hosted its opening ceremony Tuesday for the second annual inner city tournament at historic Rickwood Field with teams from as near as Georgia and Florida and as far as Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
As many as 1,200 players are participating from ages 8 to 22.
Piper Davis Youth Baseball League was founded in 1992 in Birmingham by Fred Plump to bring baseball back into the inner city and honor blacks who played in the Negro Leagues. The league is named after Lorenzo “Piper” Davis, a trailblazer in the Negro Baseball League who once played for the Birmingham Black Barons.
Plump, who is the Executive Director, said the objective of the league “is to get our inner city children off the street, teach them something that’s a better way of life other than gangbanging; teach them to play baseball, and let them understand the real reason of a good education.”
Teams from Washington, D.C., Michigan and Puerto Rico are also in Birmingham for the five-day event.
Delegate for St. Maarten Island, Jeffrey Richardson said he was excited to have his squad in Alabama for the first time.
“We have to put some time into getting to our kids, making them feel valuable, letting them know that baseball can change your life around, letting them know if they really put their minds to it and be dedicated, committed, and disciplined, they’ll be able to make a career in baseball,” Richardson said.
Coaches discussed the importance of the sport and watching players develop.
“You see how the kids actually grow, not only on the baseball field but as people. We’re lacking a lot of leadership nowadays and I enjoy seeing what they become after they go through the program,” said Jorge Roque, head coach for the Piper Davis Louisiana team.
Tim Boyd, coach of the Birmingham Police Athletic Team said, “It’s nothing like seeing a young kid grow up to be a man … each year a kid gets stronger, faster from what I’ve seen. It’s just a growth process,” he said.
Jaih Andrews, a rising freshman at Ramsay High School is one of Boyd’s players. He enjoys baseball because he “likes to play with his friends.” His favorite team is the Atlanta Braves and one day he hopes to make it in Major League Baseball, he said.
PA Announcer Keith Mims said baseball is particularly important in the inner city because the game has been on a downward trend in urban neighborhoods for many decades.
“I commend Coach Fred Plump for all of his efforts in trying to bring back baseball to the inner city because many of our kids are only interested in basketball and football in a lot of cases,” Mims said.
The tournament continues through Saturday, July 16.