Southern gears up for sixth trip to MLB Urban Invitational

When former Major League Baseball executive Jimmie Lee Solomon helped launch the Urban Invitational, his vision was an event that would help make baseball more appealing to young minority athletes.

Southern coach Roger Cador said the event has not only achieved that goal, it has also created awareness worldwide about his program and university.

When recruiting overseas, Cador said potential recruits often associate him with the Urban Invitational, which has a partnership with MLB and the MLB Network.

“What this Urban Invitational has done,” Cador said, “is made us global.”

Southern is part of the Urban Invitational for the sixth time, the only program to appear in each of the first six. The event will happen at Minute Maid Park in Houston for the second straight year after being played at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., the first four.

For the first time, the Urban Invitational field consists entirely of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In fact, all four teams participating are from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Southern opens the three-day event against Texas Southern at 3 p.m. Friday, then faces Alabama State at 4 p.m. Saturday and Prairie View, the reigning SWAC champion, at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

The game against Alabama State will be carried by the MLB Network.

Cador compared Southern’s opportunity to play in a big league stadium to that of a small-college team having a chance to play in a major-college venue.

“We’ve got to make sure they don’t take too much of the major league dirt and put it in their pocket when we go home,” Cador joked.

The three games against SWAC competition come one week before Southern travels to Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the start of its Western Division schedule.

Although the Jaguars will see Texas Southern, Alabama State and Prairie View in more important games down the road, Cador said he will not concern himself with whether he shows the rivals too much.

“I’m just trying to get this team playing better,” Cador said. “That’s my goal. I don’t think we’re in a position to try and hide anything. We need to start playing better baseball.”

Southern opened the season by taking two of three games from Stillman (Ala.) College at Pete Goldsby Field, then suffered an 11-1 loss at Nicholls State on Wednesday night.

Cador will go with the same rotation of starting pitchers he used on opening weekend: senior left-hander Jesse “Doc” Holiday in the first game, junior right-hander Jose De Leon in the second and senior right-hander Daniel Garcia in the third.

For the Jaguars to experience success in Houston, Cador said the defense must give its pitchers more support than in the two games Southern has lost.

Southern committed four errors Wednesday in Thibodaux.

The Jaguars went 2-1 at the Urban Invitational last year, sandwiching easy wins against Prairie View and Alabama State around a 5-1 loss to UC Irvine.