A Tribute to 42 – Jackie Robinson Invitational Tournament

The sun wasn’t even up yet when teams arrived early, warmed up their arms and took some practice cuts in the batting cages for the 3rd annual Jackie Robinson Invitational Tournament presented by Delta Air Lines on Saturday, April 12th,  at the Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy at The Villages at Carver Family YMCA.

We invited 16 local recreational teams to compete in this baseball and softball tournament for kids ages 5-12. New this year, we welcomed girls softball to the tournament, a first for the annual event, and participants were able to channel their creative side by submitting a short essay, piece of artwork or poetry depicting how Jackie Robinson’s legacy had inspired them in the “Tribute to 42” contest.

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The single elimination style tournament consisted of four teams in each age bracket, with a consolation game and a championship game.

Volunteers from Delta, Georgia State University, and the Braves 400 Club Fan Club all pitched in to help in keeping score of each game and answering questions from spectators and parents.

After all four teams in each age division had played one game, everyone headed to the John Smoltz Field for the Welcoming Ceremony and Team Pictures. Former Braves outfielder, Terry Harper spoke about how important it is for the kids to pursue their dreams and work hard to become the best they can possibly be and reiterated the importance of preserving the legacy of one of the most inspirational baseball players of all time. Delta Air Lines representative Perry Sloan spoke on behalf of Delta and their strong commitment to youth and the community. Finally the time had come to announce the “Tribute to 42” contest winners for their exceptional artwork, poetry, and essays. We are proud to congratulate our winners once again, Eric Hairston and Kenneth Hubbard of the Sandtown Red Sox, and Noah Tyler, Kadin Odum, and Joshua Sibley of the Sharpsburg Astros. Thank you for your hard work and congratulations again!

Each team went straight back into the competition, playing their consolation or championship games. At the end of the tournament, youth ages 5-8 participated in the Pitch, Hit, and Run skills competition where they were able to test their pitching abilities, base running, and homerun swings. Our Homerun Derby champions were Traquan Johnson and Victor Buchanan, Fleet Feet Base Running Champions were Jeremiah Francis and Bryce Hicks, and our Golden Arm Pitching Champions were Khmari Muhammad and Keymond Maze.

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As the tournament came to a close, all teams and their families headed to Turner Field to participate in a pre-game parade. The winners of the skills contest and the “Tribute to 42” contest were honored on field before 30,000 Braves fans. Each winner stood proud as they waved to the crowd after hearing their names at Turner Field and showed off their awards.

This will be a memory the participants, volunteers and our staff will never forget. These young baseball and softball players had the opportunity to participate in an exciting day of tournament fun while celebrating the life and legacy of #42, Jackie Robinson.

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