NEW YORK -- Minor League Baseball announced Tuesday it is launching an outreach program focused on the Black community called "The Nine," which is designed to honor and celebrate the historic impact of Black baseball pioneers and civil rights leaders.
The Nine is named in honor of the number Jackie Robinson wore during his only season playing in the minor leagues (MiLB) with the Triple-A Montreal Royals in 1946. It will provide new national programming and special events in a campaign aimed at bolstering existing efforts in Black communities.
The announcement came on the first day of Black History Month. The initiative also follows MiLB's Copa de la Diversión -- the Latino fan-engagement platform introduced in 2017 that included 76 MiLB teams last season.
MiLB said The Nine will focus on creating new opportunities for Black youth participation throughout MiLB's 120 cities, particularly where youth baseball and softball programs either don't exist or are difficult to access.
Central to this push is a planned expansion of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program throughout MiLB's national footprint. New competitions in MLB's Pitch, Hit & Run and Junior Home Run Derby events will debut in MiLB markets beginning in 2022.
The Nine also will strive to further diversify the baseball business. Several minor league teams are located in cities that are home to historically Black colleges and universities, and the program hopes to provide opportunities for those schools to start internship and mentorship programs with local teams so students can get on-the-job experience before entering the job market.