Let’s Play Ball in Laurel
In the Pine Belt region of South Mississippi, “take me out to the ball game” will have a new meaning in May, 2018. The National Urban Professional Baseball League (NUPBL) is coming to Wooten-Legion Field in Laurel.
Why Laurel? “The Coach” and creator of the NUPBL, Michael E. Mayden, explained it well.
“Laurel is known for being a baseball city,” Mayden said. “We were looking for a site that would accommodate us and our target audience, African Americans. In doing our research, we felt Laurel would be a great city to embrace our brand of baseball, the African American experience.”
Mayden brings a 37 year career in baseball to the NUPBL. His resume includes major league scouting and college and high school coaching.
Have you heard of Cool Papa Bell, Rube Foster, Monte Irvin or Buck Leonard? They were unnoticed heroes of what used to be referred to as the Negro baseball leagues. According to Armor Mark and Daniel R. Levitt’s “Baseball Demographics, 1947-2016,” by 2016, 6.7% of Major League Baseball players were African Americans. Coach Mayden hopes to change this by allowing young men a second chance to fulfill their dreams of playing professional baseball.
NUPBL’s goal and mission statement is to: “Inspire individuals to use their God-given talent and abilities to reach their personal and professional goals.”
On October 20, Mayor of Laurel, Johnny McGee; Parks and Recreation Director, Elvin Ulmer; and Coach Mayden met with local media at Wooten-Legion Field to announce the NUPBL coming to Laurel. Opportunity knocked for potential catchers, infielders, outfielders and pitchers when they participated in team tryouts on October 21-22.
Players were selected to complete a 24-man roster that included a team manager and two coaches. Tryouts were targeted for players 17 years and older who had completed their high school eligibility. The NUPBL sought the best baseball players regardless of ethnic background. Planned salary for the players was $500-$1,200 per month. Lodging was included in the payment package.
The NUPBL will consist of four teams with plans for expansion. Team names will reflect past African American baseball players such as Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. Squads will play a 90-game schedule May through August (45 away games/45 home games) in addition to league playoffs. The clubs will play six games per week with 15 three-game home stands.
NUPBL has also established a team in Millington, Tennessee. Other possible locations include Louisiana, Texas, and there is even talk of Hattiesburg.
The National Urban Professional Baseball League was dedicated on August 3-6 at USA Stadium in Millington, Tennessee. A $3 admission per game was charged. Themes included were: “Senior Citizen Day,” “A Blast from the Past honoring Negro league players,” “Military Tribute,” and “Family and Friend Day.” Concessions offered Chicago-style hotdogs, Italian and Polish sausages, hamburgers and lemonade.
“Having the opportunity to go to a baseball game as a family at an affordable price and having the opportunity to laugh and enjoy one another traveling to, from, and during the game, is a very valuable tool for family and unity,” Mayden said. “There is nothing more important than family and unity.”
“Baseball has been around from generation to generation, from little league, to high school, to college, and to the pros,” he added. “It has been adopted as the official sport of the American people.”
Come on out to Laurel’s Wooten-Legion Field in May, 2018, and support the NUPBL. Witness young men fulfilling their dreams by playing the sport they love. Allow your family to be influenced and inspired.
Freelance writer Mary C. Fairley is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. She is a retired Medical Technologist and is a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves watching her grandchildren dance, perform gymnastics, and play baseball and soccer.