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Heated rivalry between Alabama State and Alabama A&M headed to Regions field in Magic City Diamond Classic

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Promoter Prentiss Hill is flanked by Alabama A&M baseball coach Mitch Hill, left, and Alabama State baseball coach José Vazquez. Their teams will meet in the third Magic City Diamond Classic. This year's game is at Regions Field. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr., for The Birmingham Times)

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

For The Birmingham Times

Promoter Prentiss Hill is flanked by Alabama A&M baseball coach Mitch Hill, left, and Alabama State baseball coach José Vazquez. Their teams will meet in the third Magic City Diamond Classic. This year's game is at Regions Field. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr., for The Birmingham Times)
Promoter Prentiss Hill is flanked by Alabama A&M baseball coach Mitch Hill, left, and Alabama State baseball coach José Vazquez. Their teams will meet in the third Magic City Diamond Classic. This year’s game is at Regions Field. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr., for The Birmingham Times)

Nothing compares to the pageantry and spirit that surrounds the Magic City Classic, the annual football showdown between Alabama State University (ASU) and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU) on Birmingham’s historic Legion Field gridiron.

But organizers of the Magic City Diamond Classic envision a day when a matchup between the Hornets and Bulldogs draws a proportionately large level of fan support on a Birmingham baseball diamond.

The third Magic City Diamond Classic will be played on Friday, April 7, at 5:30 p.m., at Regions Field. The first two meetings took place at Rickwood Field.

Birmingham Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson said he is excited to have the game in downtown Birmingham.

“When we host it here, we hope it’s the beginning of a great chapter,” he said. “Obviously, the Magic City Classic is a legendary football event in this town, and it has been for a long time. … We hope that will carry over to baseball in the springtime.”

AAMU coach Mitch Hill said both teams will benefit from exposure in the talent-rich Birmingham area.

ASU coach José Vasquez agreed: “Moving it to this venue is only going to help. This is where our guys eventually want to play.”

Mayor William Bell repeated his wish to position Birmingham as a magnet for college athletics and other sporting events.

“We support the Magic City Classic, which is the football entity. Now we’re supporting the Magic City Diamond Classic, where those two schools will meet on the baseball field,” he said. “As we develop this game, it will draw more people than it has in the past and bring attention to the talent at both schools.”

The first Magic City Diamond Classic was a three-game series won by AAMU; the second was a single game won by ASU. The first meeting drew about 1,200 fans to the three-game event, and the second drew about 300 to the single-game matchup.

“The first two years were at Rickwood Field, and that was great because we made history by initiating the event,” said Prentiss Hill, CEO of the Black College Sports Group (BCSG), which is promoting the Diamond Classic. “Now we’re growing and developing. … Being down here at Regions Field is a move that we’re excited about.”

Hill, a native of Birmingham’s Bush Hills neighborhood who now lives in Chicago, said he expects a larger crowd this year, with 1,000 tickets committed to Birmingham City Schools and 1,000 to Jefferson County Schools.

General admission tickets for the Magic City Diamond Classic are $10 (batter’s box seats are $20, and club-level seats are $25). Currently, 1,000 general admission tickets are available online at www.bcsg360.org.

In addition, there will be other festivities, including:

The Magic City Diamond Classic Lyrical Lounge and Comedy Jam at the Birmingham Museum of Art, (2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Blvd.) on April 6. Patrons will have the choice of a lineup of local and national comedians or hearing lyrical muses of live, unscripted music.

The HBCU Experience at the Negro Southern League Museum (120 16th St. S) on April 7. Students can learn more about preparing to attend college.

An Alumni Tailgate Party at the Negro Southern League Museum (Negro Southern League Museum, 120 16th St. S) on April 7. Fans can show team spirit before, during and after the game.

The Magic City Diamond Classic Street Fest on First Avenue South (Outside Regions Field) on April 7. There will be a variety of vendors from 14th Street to 16th Street.