In November 2021, Wilberforce University announced the return of the baseball program, and they are now gearing up for their first game in 80 years.
The return of baseball at WU was made possible with the help of The Cincinnati Reds, who helped with the financials of building a team and provided resources, according to Spectrum News 1.
“Bringing Black baseball back to the community is something we were longing to do,” Jerome Wright, who directs the Reds Youth Academy said. “And Roosevelt (WU Head Baseball Coach Roosevelt Barnes) had the vision to try to get a baseball team back at an HBCU in our area. We worked together for a couple of years to develop a plan to bring that back to Wilberforce.”
According to the Reds and Wilberforce University, it’s about more than baseball.
“We want to see the success on the field but we also want to get some of those young men that are a part of the program into internships with the Reds or full-time positions with the Reds as well because we’re trying to make a whole individual and baseball is just a catalyst to do that,” Wright told Spectrum News 1.
WU Head Baseball Coach Roosevelt Barnes echoed Wrights’s sentiments saying, “we’re not just playing ball in between the lines. There are plans to employ some of these young men, to provide them with internships and even gainful employment in the game of baseball.”
Wright also extended the invitation for the WU Bulldogs to use the Reds’ tunnels, indoor field, weight room, and “whatever they need to help them level the playing field.”
Barnes hopes that the return of WU baseball and collaboration with The Cincinnati Reds will set an example for other HBCUs.
“I hope that we are a catalyst for other HBCUs,” said WU Head Baseball Coach Roosevelt Barnes. “How fitting right that this is the first time that a major league team has ever partnered with an HBCU. And Wilberforce is the first privately owned and operated HBCU here in Ohio founded in 1856. To have two firsts come together and get this done, I’m pretty sure there will be more HBCUs that’ll follow.”
Wilberforce plays its first game of the season in Georgia on Feb. 10 and its first home game at the Athletes in Action facility in Xenia on March 13.