The Urban Youth Academy is first stop of “Around the Mound” tour
Â In the middle of the Freeway Series last weekend, Orlando Hudson, Juan Pierre and Torii Hunter came together for a different battle – the fight to revitalize baseball in the inner-city.
The three came together on May 23 at the Urban Youth Academy for the first stop of Hudson’s “Around the Mound” tour to focus on teaching kids about the importance of education and baseball.
Over 175 Kids from 7-17 from the Academy, Compton Baseball Academy Teams (CBATS) and several high schools came out and also participated in drills hosted by the three players.
In recent years, Hudson and Hunter have been critical not just of the lack of Black players in baseball, but the declining interest of Black youth in the sport.
“A lot of blacks have played this game and they played it well,” said Hudson. “But now it’s starting to get away from us, so hopefully we can get them back into it.”
The tour is also expected to hit cities like Atlanta, New York and Washington D.C before the end of the season.
Hudson, Pierre, and Hunter all spoke about how they’ve managed to take their game to the next level in professional baseball, by staying focused on and off the field. Hudson also expressed his feelings on the lack of African-American television exposure in baseball, compared to football and basketball.
The kids were all smiles on Saturday as they asked questions and took instructions. But they weren’t the only ones.
“It feels good with all the big league life it’s more than a game, but what you see here is it’s just a game” said Pierre. “It brings the kid out of you again and it’s always fun to see that.”
All three grew up in the South, and talked about how terrible their fields were growing up. They spoke highly of how impressed they were with the Compton facility.
“I grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas,” said Hunter. “We had nothing like you have here. We played on a plain dirt field.”
“I played on a cow pasture in Louisiana,” said Pierre. “We would have to dodge around cows and horses every time we played.”
Hunter made his first trip to the Academy after donating $10,000 to help jump-start the Compton Little League which returned this year, after nearly a decade
After each of the players spoke to the kids, they were split into three groups. Pierre was teaching the kids about bases, Hunter covered out fielding and Hudson took on batting. They also answered questions from the kids and signed autographs in each group.
For Urban Youth Academy director Darrell Miller, it could not have been a better day as he walked around the park looking elated.
“It’s great to get players out here to actually talk to the kids,” said Miller, a former catcher with the Angels and has been the director since the academy opened in 2006. “The missing component is the connection with the players and the kids. We’ve been doing this for a while now, and the kids at the academy hear a lot from a lot of retired players, but they don’t often get to hear from guys that they can see, monitor and feel like they can touch on TV.”