ABOVE: The Southern Jaguars came out victorious as the first-place winners of the inaugural Cactus Jack HBCU Classic Baseball Tournament.
These are exciting times for baseball in the city of Houston.
Not only did the Houston Astros just win their second World Series in franchise history, they also recently provided history-making moments for several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) this past February 17th through February 19th at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros Foundation hosted the inaugural Cactus Jack HBCU Classic—a round-robin collegiate baseball tournament—highlighting HBCUs and their baseball programs. The tournament was hosted in partnership with award-winning rapper and Missouri City native Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Foundation.
The Cactus Jack HBCU Classic featured other events such as a college fair, gospel breakfast, celebrity softball classic, and home run derby. Proceeds from the nine-game, three-day event are being used to provide scholarship opportunities for students to attend HBCUs.
The inaugural nine-game tournament featured Texas Southern University (TSU), Prairie View A&M University, Southern University, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, and Mississippi Valley State University.
Each of the HBCUs began their 2023 season as part of college baseball’s opening weekend across the country. It is believed that the inaugural Cactus Jack HBCU Classic serves as the first time that six HBCU baseball programs came together to play at a Major League ballpark.
The event was coordinated by Paula Harris, vice president of community affairs and executive director of the Astros Foundation, and it served as an extension of the community outreach the Houston Astros have been doing in the community.
“Our goal was to make sure that our HBCU kids have the same experience on the field that we [provide] in our other college classics,” said Harris. “The Astros are committed to diversity. We want to make sure that all kids are exposed to baseball, and they all get an opportunity. This is the culmination of a lot of work and dreams.”
The baseball tournament opened on the first day with the first game being between Prairie View A&M and Grambling State and continuing throughout the weekend to Sunday.
The Southern Jaguars came out victorious as the first-place winners of the inaugural Cactus Jack HBCU Classic Baseball Tournament. The Most Valuable Player was from Southern University, while 238 players participated in the tournament and young men hit home runs out of the park at Minute Maid Park. Over 1,000 high school students attended the College Fair, 75 college students were invited to a reception, and many more things took place for all attendees to enjoy.
Each day, 2,500 attendees received an exclusive Travis Scott Bobblehead presented by the Cactus Jack Foundation.
Hometown area HBCUs—Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University—also squared off against each other, which is always a wonderful local rivalry.
While it was exciting to see the hometown TSU Tigers play in their home city on that Saturday, even greater news came before the baseball game even began, as the Astros delivered a special announcement on the field along with TSU administrators and officials.
It was officially announced by Paula Harris that the Astros Foundation was providing $1 million to TSU to build a new baseball and a new softball stadium on their campus, as part of an ongoing partnership between the two organizations.
“We started our partnership with Texas Southern last year, and this is just another big step,” said Harris. “Texas Southern has never had their own baseball field. They play at a city park! We are the World Series-winning Houston Astros, and we’re here to do our part to make sure that our kids have the same equality across this city and access to good baseball.”
TSU is projected to break ground and begin construction on the new stadiums later on this year, which will be a tremendous change from seeing the baseball team play at MacGregor Park and the softball team play at Memorial Park.
Three of the games were televised on Saturday and one was televised on MLB Network, which put a significant spotlight on all six of the participating HBCU programs.
Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson, who also serves as special advisor to Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, attended the Cactus Jack HBCU Classic and expressed his excitement to see the attention the programs, players, coaches, and fans are getting as a result of this effort.
Congratulations to everyone who made this inaugural event a huge success!