Major League Baseball (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), USA Baseball and the Atlanta Braves today announced the re-branded Hank Aaron Invitational, which will add new elements to the event formerly known as the “Elite Development Invitational.” The announcement was held in a special press conference featuring Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark prior to Game Three of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium.
The Hank Aaron Invitational will be held in July and August at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. operated by MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball. Approximately 250 players (ages 13-18) from across the United States will receive elite-level training from former Major League players and coaches. Previous event instructors included former Major League manager Jerry Manuel and former All-Stars such as Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., Hall of Famer Dave Winfield,Tom “Flash” Gordon, Eric Davis, Marquis Grissom, Reggie Smith, Delino DeShields, among others. The players also will receive presentations on college eligibility and other information necessary for advancement in the collegiate and professional levels of the sport.
The Hank Aaron Invitational will continue to be a unique amateur development event designed as a youth-oriented, on-field diversity initiative that aims to get high school-age players, with diverse backgrounds, to the next levels of the game. The joint MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation will cover all operations expenses, allowing the event to be entirely cost-free for all participants. The Youth Development Foundation is a joint effort, established in July 2015, focused on improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada.
As a new element of the event in 2019, the top 44 players from the Hank Aaron Invitational will be invited to play in a special showcase game at SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves, as part of an extensive “Hank Aaron Week” hosted by the Braves. Hank Aaron Week will include a variety of diversity- and culture-focused initiatives focusing on business networking, nostalgic history connected to Aaron’s legacy, philanthropy, education and social justice. Additional details for Hank Aaron Week, including dates for all events, will be announced at a later date.
“I’m humbled to have this program named in my honor and thrilled the showcase game will be played at SunTrust Park,” said Aaron. “I applaud MLB and the Braves in their efforts to continue to assist with outreach so that opportunities are available to all.”
“The Braves are proud to play host to the showcase game and have it be a part of our important and expanding Hank Aaron Week,” said Derek Schiller, President and CEO of the Atlanta Braves. “This game aligns with our continuing efforts to reach out to all communities to expand the game of baseball.”
“It is an honor to have Hank Aaron associated with one of our most important youth programs, which is designed to enhance access to the collegiate and professional pipelines of our sport,” said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. “We believe the lessons learned from the great successes and challenges Hank faced throughout his career will inspire a deeper commitment and passion within all future Hank Aaron Invitational participants.”
“Hank Aaron inspires courage, dignity, hard work and achievement, the very qualities we’re trying to instill in the young athletes we invite each summer to this one-of-a-kind event, where former players use their vast knowledge of the game and experience to serve as mentors for tomorrow’s players,” MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said. “If we teach young players about Hank Aaron and his legacy, they’ll be off to a great start.”
The players for the Hank Aaron Invitational will be selected via a combination of the following programs and groups: MLB Youth Academy network, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, USA Baseball, the Buck O’Neil Scouts Association, MLB Clubs & Scouts, and individual active and former players. Many players also will be participants of Breakthrough Series Development Camps hosted by MLB & USA Baseball.
This effort, which began in 2015 as the Elite Development Invitational, currently has more than 100 alumni either playing professionally in Club Minor League systems or on the collegiate level. This equates to more than half of the participants who graduated high school in 2017 or 2018. Notable alumni include Hunter Greene (2015 EDI, 1st round, CIN in 2017), Osiris Johnson (2016-2017 EDI, 2nd round, MIA in 2018), Taj Bradley (2016-2017 EDI, 5th round, TB in 2018),Lawrence Butler (2016-2017 EDI, 6th round, OAK in 2018), Cabera Weaver (2016 EDI, 7th round, CWS in 2018) and Bryce Bush (2017 EDI, 33rd round, CWS in 2018).