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SL All-Star Game honors Negro Leaguers07/13/2009 7:59 PM ET
By Josh Rutledge / Special to MLB.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Over a dozen former Negro League players were honored in a ceremony prior to the start of the 2009 Southern League All-Star Game, offering fans and players alike a glimpse back in history.
The former players took the field to line up alongside participants from both the North and South All-Stars.
"It's good to be invited and to be recognized that we did make a contribution," former Negro League pitcher Bob Greason said. "And to bring these guys out at our age, it's a great thing.
For many of the players and coaches, the ceremony was a unique opportunity to honor the men who helped pave the way for future ballplayers.
"It was a great honor to have those guys here," South team coach Ever Magallenes said. "They were a big part of baseball history and tradition, bringing us to where the game is at now."
Players from the North and South enjoyed hearing about how the game was played during that time.
"We got to meet a couple of them during the Home Run Derby at Rickwood, and it was just awesome to talk to those guys," Magellenes added. "They gave us some advice, talked to us about how they did it back then. Just to hear some of their stories was great."
In addition to the ceremony, a silent auction of baseball memorabilia took place to raise money for the American Negro Leagues Legends Youth Academy.
"We're trying to promote this and the history about it," former Negro League player Bob Veale said. "Especially we want to help impact lives of young people who might not know about this history."
Besides working with children on the baseball field, the Academy also serves as a mentorship program focused on providing important skills in areas such as academics and computers.
"This was an outstanding opportunity not to just to recognize the legends, but also to bridge the gap with the future, to give kids a chance to see some of these legends while they are alive," said Daniel Kasambira, development director for the academy.
FUTURES GAMERS RACE BACK: Mobile Baybears pitcher Jarrod Parker, the Arizona Diamondbacks' No. 1 prospect, was given special accommodations to play in Southern League All-Star Game on Monday night, one night after competing in the Futures Game in St. Louis.
"The guys wanted to enjoy the experience," Magallenes said. "The Futures experience is great, but nonetheless, they wanted to come here and represent their team. It says a lot about those kids, who want to come down here and be a part of this."
Parker, playing for the United States in the Futures Game, came into that game in the fifth inning, retiring the only batter he faced on four pitches.
Along with Parker, Birmingham Barons' Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo and Montgomery Biscuits' Desmond Jennings were also able to play in both the Futures Game and All-Star Game.
Jennings set a Futures game record with three stolen bases.
DERBY OFFERS PEEK INTO PAST: Several sluggers from the North and South teams competed in the Southern League Home Run Derby on Sunday afternoon, but for all the All-Stars, the Derby also offered a chance to visit historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala.
The oldest surviving ballpark in the United States, Rickwood Field has played host to baseball legends such as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, in addition to once serving as home field for the Negro League-affiliated Birmingham Black Barons.
Getting a chance to play on the field and tour the ballpark's facility was a unique honor for several players, including Brad Davis, a catcher for the Jacksonville Suns.
"You just feel the history here," Davis said. "You come in, and you can just see the history. They've got pictures in the clubhouse of some of the great players that have played here. It's amazing. It gives you chills."
The ballpark also proved to be a challenge for Derby participants.
"It's amazing playing a Home Run Derby out here, but it's also really tough," said Stefan Gartrell, an outfielder for the Birmingham Barons. "The ball just doesn't carry real well, and the walls are pretty high."
Mobile BayBears infielder Ricardo Sosa won the Home Run Derby.
LOCAL CELEBRITIES PLAY BALL: Several Alabama celebrities took part in a friendly softball game Sunday afternoon at Rickwood Field, one of the many festivities surrounding the Southern League All-Star Game.
Sports Illustrated baseball editor Chris Stone participated, along with Birmingham mayor Larry Langford and SEC referee Steve Shaw.
"I grew up in Birmingham, so this is a lot of history," Shaw said. "It was honor to be out on the field. And it was a great event for Birmingham."
After seven innings of softball, the game was tied, 1-1, forcing teams into a home run derby to decide the winner.
Former Auburn University quarterback Stan White propelled his team to victory with three home runs, beating out former University of Alabama quarterback Tyler Watts.
"A baseball coach would be proud because I was hitting some really nice line drives," Watts said. "But that doesn't fly in a home run derby."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.