PITTSBURGH, Pa. - HBCU baseball is coming to PNC Park. NAIA programs Stillman College and Wiley College will meet for a fall exhibition in the Inaugural Pittsburgh HBCU Baseball Classic, hosted by the Pittsburgh HBCU Collaborative at the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. EDT. Admission is free.
"The PGH HBCU Collaborative is excited to bring and host Pittsburgh’s first ever HBCU Baseball Classic and showcase what other major cities have enjoyed over the years: the HBCU family atmosphere and the talent of its student athletes," said Jeff Williams, vice president of the Pittsburgh HBCU Collaborative. "Pittsburgh's inaugural HBCU Baseball Classic is a testament to the rich culture, heritage, and history of our nation's HBCUs and Negro League baseball teams. Hosting such an event in the same community as America's second established HBCU, Avery College, demonstrates the PGH HBCU Collaborative's commitment to preserving our historical past and creating a bright and sustainable future for HBCU culture throughout greater Pittsburgh."
It will be the first countable contest for both programs, as Stillman and Wiley will represent the NAIA in a rare exhibition at a Major League Baseball stadium in October.
"We are looking forward to participating in this grand event,” said Terrance Whittle, Stillman College director of athletics and head baseball coach. “Our players will definitely have the experience of a lifetime to play in a Major League ballpark. This opportunity will show the nation the value, gems and talent associated with HBCU baseball, in addition to the scholarship that these players demonstrate on a daily basis.”
“It’s going to be a good game and a good experience for both schools,” said Kendrick Biggs, Wiley head baseball coach. “More importantly it will be something the kids will never forget. It’s going to bring good publicity to both schools. I see it being a win-win all the way around.”
Both teams are expected to arrive in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Oct. 9 and participate in a youth clinic with the Josh Gibson Foundation. The teams hope to visit local schools as part of the trip as well.
The event came to fruition after a year-long discussion with the Pittsburgh HBCU Collaborative and Dr. Cynthia Warrick, Stillman College president.
"We are extremely excited for Stillman's baseball team to have the opportunity to play on a Major League Baseball field in this first Pittsburgh HBCU Baseball Classic,” Warrick said. “This will be an experience they will never forget, and it provides Stillman national exposure for baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates were the first major league baseball team to play an all-black lineup in 1971. Making history 50 years later, it will be the first NAIA HBCUs to play in exhibition at PNC Park."
Stillman College, located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is making its first known trip to Pittsburgh for a game. Whittle, a former scout for the Pirates in the 1990s, is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Tigers, which compete in the Southern States Athletic Conference.
Located in Marshall, Texas, Wiley College joins the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference this season after a tenure in the Red River Athletic Conference. Briggs is entering his eighth season as the Wildcats’ head coach.
Both programs have professional baseball ties to the city of Pittsburgh. Stillman alumnus Bernard Stranton was drafted by the Pirates in 1982. Wiley alumnus Al Jackson made his MLB debut with the Pirates in 1959 and played two seasons before moving on to set the career-wins record as a New York Mets pitcher, prior to Tom Seaver. Two other Wiley alumni, Larry Livingston and Pat Patterson, played alongside baseball legend Josh Gibson with the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro National League II in the 1930s. Patterson also played one game with the Homestead Grays, before helping the Crawfords to a Negro National League II championship win in 1935.
More than two dozen alumni from NAIA member institutions have had professional ties with the Pittsburgh Pirates over the years, including Alabama native and Benedictine (Kan.) alumnus Bob Veale, who played for the Pirates from 1962-1973. Most recently, Point Park alumnus Don Kelly made his MLB debut with the Pirates in 2007.
In addition to the baseball game, Stillman College Admissions will also be in Pittsburgh that week to attend the 10th Annual Steel City HBCU College & Transfer Fair, which will be hosted by the Western Pennsylvania Council of HBCU Alumni on Oct. 12 at PNC Park.