Fall Ball Report: Wilberforce University Preps for First Baseball Season in Over Eighty Years

Wilberforce University holds the distinction of being the nation’s oldest private, historically black university owned and operated by African Americans, founded in 1856. The baseball program, too, is one of the oldest among HBCUs, dating back to the late-nineteenth century and also holds the distinction of having produced the first Major Leaguer who previously played baseball at an HBCU… that being James Clarkson of the Boston Braves.

Though the Wilberforce, Ohio campus (just outside of the city of Xenia) has been home to so much educational and athletic history, it has been some eighty years since the school has sponsored varsity baseball.

That all changed on November 9, 2021 when Wilberforce University President Elfred Anthony Pinkard made an exciting announcement that the long dormant Wilberforce Bulldog baseball program will be resurrected with on the field play beginning in the spring of 2023. The revival of the Wilberforce baseball program was made possible by the support from the Cincinnati Reds as well as the Reds Community Fund and the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy.

On a side note… click here to read a primer on the rich history of Wilberforce University baseball written shortly after the announcement.

Fast forward one year and it’s now fall ball.  The coaching staff is in place, headed by Wilberforce graduate Roosevelt Barnes and assisted by Byron Famble Sr., Bryan Shelby and Grant Bradley. For more on Coach Barnes, please read here.

This upcoming season, Wilberforce University will be playing its home games at Xenia’s Athletes in Action Sports Complex and Retreat with the first home game scheduled for March 3, 2023 against Lindsey Wilson College of Kentucky. The Bulldogs will open its season on the road on February 10, 2023 in the HBCU Peachtree City Classic in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wilberforce University, competing on the NAIA level, has previously been affiliated with the Continental Athletic Conference (formerly know as the Association of Independent Institutions), but in July of 2022 joined the Mid-South Conference and will be competing for conference baseball championships beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. Wilberforce joins Bethel (Tenn.), Campbellsville (Ky.), Cumberland (Tenn.), Cumberlands (Ky.), Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), Georgetown (Ky.), Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), Pikeville (Ky.), Shawnee State (Ohio), Tennessee Southern and Thomas More (Ky.) to make up to the 12-team conference.

According to Coach Barnes, Wilberforce recently capped off a productive fall ball session. Sophmores, Marques Smith, Edison Galen and Lee May III showed well this fall at the plate.  Freshmen outfielder Keith Smith Jr showcased his defensive skills and will be a key factor in the Bulldogs offense this spring. The Bulldogs look to bring in 5-7 transfers in January to shore up its pitching arsenal and support up the middle.  While the Green and Gold look to compete in the Mid-South Conference, they are looking to make history by making an appearance in the Black College World Series in May of 2023.


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