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Many of the top youth baseball players from the inner city develop their skills at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton. They showcased their talent at the Inglewood Invitational 12U Baseball Tournament. Photo by Jason Lewis
Baldwin Hills Park, who competed in the Inglewood Invitational 12U Baseball Tournament, is one of the few predominately black youth baseball leagues left in Los Angeles. Holly Park, Ladera Heights, Van Ness, St. Andrews, and Sportsman Little League are the others. Photo by Jason Lewis
The first African American Marines threw out the first pitch at the inaugural Inglewood Invitational 12U Baseball Tournament.
The Montford Point Marines were honored with the Congressional Medal by President Barack Obama earlier this summer, but the nine local members of this esteemed group were never honored here in Los Angeles.
Out of the nine local members, five of them live in Inglewood, so The Sportsman Little League, who plays out of Darby Park in Inglewood, decided to put on a baseball tournament to showcase local talent and to honor these great men.
“Nothing has been said or done for them in Los Angeles,” Michael Oxley said. “Tuskegee Airmen are here, Buffalo Solders, the Montford Point Marines are equal to them. It’s the same thing. Nobody else in the city was honoring them, so we decided to have a tournament, and let the kids honor them.”
The oldest honoree is 91 years old, and the youngest 82. In the early 1940s through the 1950s, 20,000 black men served in the Marine Corps after President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order No. 8802, which called for fair employment in the armed forces. Because of segregation, black marines were trained at Montford Point in North Carolina, separate from whites, from 1942 to 1949.
The tournament also highlighted the local talent. In the black community, the only parks with predominately African American players are Baldwin Hills, St. Andrews, and Van Ness for parks and rec., and Sportsman, Holly Park, and Ladera Heights for Little League.
Not only did this tournament show that black children can still play baseball at a high level, it also displayed the talent level to other communities.
“We have all nationalities here playing (in this tournament),” Oxley said. “We have a Korean team, a Japanese team, an African American team, and a Latino team. The tournament is to expose the kids to other nationalities.”
Former Inglewood Mayor Danny Tabor, who has helped keep baseball alive in the inner city, and has served as the president of Sportsman Little League, said that they can guarantee that if a young player stays in their program through 14 years old, that player will make their varsity high school team as a freshman.
“They would have the skills, the experience, and the knowledge to succeed in the sport,” Tabor said. “They would have a plan when they came to the plate. They would have a plan on how to do their homework so that they could stay on the team. They would have a plan when the opportunity came to them.”
Just like any other sport, to excel at baseball a player has to practice year round. The Little League season is not until the spring, but Sportsman Little League is not waiting until then to prepare their players. Their training and development program, which is conducted by a professional coaching staff, begins this month, and they have sessions in October and November.
The training sessions are on Saturdays, with training for both girl’s softball and boy’s baseball. All training sessions are at Darby Park. For more information, contact Sportsman Little League at (310) 259-3464, or at www.sportsmanlittleleague.com.