Inaugural series and win: The Atlanta Braves Ralph Garr-Bill Lucas HBCU Baseball Classic
Pre-game: Grambling State University Tigers vs Florida A&M University Rattlers
March 13th is more than just another late winter day feeling more like spring (with afternoon temperatures reaching the mid 70's). It's more than taking in the fresh infield, grass, and ambiance of Coolray Field.
It's something creatively different.
It's the inaugural Atlanta Braves Ralph Garr-Bill Lucas HBCU Baseball Classic presented by Truist.
An event years in the making finally comes to fruition. Named after Garr, a member of the Braves' Hall of Fame (he still holds the team single season record of 213 hits), longtime personnel, and alumnus of Grambling, as well as Lucas, a fellow Braves' Hall of Fame member who is the first African-American named as a general manager of a Major League Baseball team (and alumnus of Florida A&M), the weekend series (March 12-14, 2021) pits the Tigers against the Rattlers.
Both teams not only understand the immediate importance of the game (as both teams are seeking their first wins of the season), but its impact. In our pre-game interviews with the Tigers' head coach (James Cooper) and Rattlers' head coach (Jamey Shouppe), both understand the potential the game holds.
Game recap: Florida A&M University Rattlers defeat the Grambling State University Tigers 7-4
Grambling opens up the top of the first with a 2-run inning. With 2 outs, a 2-RBI (runs batted in) single by Jordyn Smith gives the Tigers the lead. The Rattlers would strike back with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
Prior to the 2nd inning, in-game recognition is given to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Garr (and a post-humous Jumbo-Tron video as Lucas passed in 1979).
By the time the 7th inning comes around, the game is deadlocked at 4. And once the 7th inning stretch (bottom of the 7th) ensures, the Rattlers' next strike puts the game away. A 3-run 7th inning is highlighted by a towering 2-run homerun by Grant Rowell, making it a 7-4 lead. Solid defense and pitching quell the Tigers attack, giving FAMU the win in the opening game of the series, as well as notching their first win of the season (1-12) while Grambling looks to bounce back to break into the win column (their overall record is 0-9).
A first game of the inaugural series. A first win of the season for a team, but an even bigger win for HBCU's and baseball.
And in the words of Braves' President and CEO Derek Schiller, this is only the beginning.
News and notes: The remaining games in the series take place March 13th (first pitch is 7pm EST) and March 14th (first pitch is 1pm EST). All games take place at Coolray Field (the home of the Gwinnett Stripers, the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves - click HERE for ticket information). All photos and videos are taken by Andrew Snorton.
Florida A&M University enters the 3rd base dugout for their batting practice.
Grambling State University takes the field for pre-game warmups.
The Rattlers during batting practice.
The Tigers get familiar with the field.
Ralph Garr (top left).
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Garr (top right).
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Garr (lower left).
Jumbo-Tron of Bill Lucas (lower right).
Top row (left to right): A look at Coolray Field (pre-game), Grambling's Nehemiah Wright digs in at the plate, and FAMU's Jared Weber (20) in the on-deck circle (he would hit a homerun to keep FAMU close).
Second row (left to right): Tristen Cooper (of FAMU) at the plate, a snapshot within a snapshot (lower bowl photo), and Tucker Rayburn (of FAMU) getting ready.
Third row (left to right): The Tigers' Chyrstian Mervilus steps in the batter's box, Ryan McNealy (Grambling) gets ready to swing at a pitch, and the Rattlers' Grant Rowell celebrates after launching a 2-run homerun over the left field fence (pushing the FAMU lead to 7-4).
Bottom row (left to right): Coverage from the box, the series logo, and the Rattlers celebrating their series opening 7-4 win (their first of the season).