The Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL) partnered with the Washington Nationals Aug. 23 to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the game of baseball and the community during the fifth annual Black Heritage Day. Several Urban League leaders participated in pregame ceremonies that included the “play ball” announcement from George H. Lambert Jr., GWUL president and CEO.
On hand for the event, which was postponed in May due to rain, were members of the Urban League and Washington Nationals Vice President for Government and Municipal Affairs, Gregory McCarthy.
According to McCarthy, Black Heritage Day represents an ongoing opportunity for the Nationals to engage and embrace the African-American community.
“Black heritage in baseball is an absolutely essential part of core starting with the Negro Leagues and up until today with our star players. What we want to do is build an appreciation, not just among the African-American community about the ongoing contributions of African Americans to baseball,” McCarthy said. “Working with the Urban League, who have the networks in Prince George’s County and Washington, is something we can do. We have this wonderful event to share, but also we will be working with them on things like workforce development, financial literacy, the My Brother’s Keeper program, and youth programs to begin to have really meaningful attachments between the Black community and our wonderful team, the Washington Nationals.”
Arnold Hall, coach for the D.C. Knights youth baseball team said the inclusion of his club in this year’s Black Heritage Day will help bring exposure to the presence of predominantly African-American youth leagues that have been in the city for decades. “Black Heritage Day at the Nationals is a great way to let people know that there is baseball in D.C. and that young African-American kids are actively involved in the sport. Our focus is trying to get the kids interested and Black Heritage Day is an ideal opportunity to showcase some of the players,” said Hall, who grew up in the District and played for Chamberlain High School located on Southeast D.C. The school, shuttered in the mid-1980s, is now the site for Friendship-Chamberlain Charter School.
“Baseball is a builder of discipline and teamwork ethics among young people, and we want to encourage others to join the sport,” he said.
Lambert, who began his tenure with the GWUL in January 2014, concurred, saying “We are excited about this new partnership which developed from a shared recognition that the Greater Washington Urban League and the Nationals have for the commitment to embrace and celebrate the diversity of the Washington, D.C. community. This is just the beginning and such a natural fit for us, I look forward to working on many more projects together.”