Braves World Series win ‘huge’ for kids in Atlanta minority communities

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A Braves World Series win is a win for Atlanta kids in minority communities.

Willie Slayton runs South Dekalb Tribe, a nonprofit geared toward getting minorities involved in baseball. He said big wins call big attention to the sport.

“The Braves winning is huge for the city, especially for what we do,” said Slayton. “It’s driving more kids to the sport. It’s getting the kids already in more excited to train to hopefully make it to the next level.”

Slayton also acts as team manager for the Braves RBI youth baseball team, with a roster of highly-competitive athletes in the metro Atlanta area. He said registration is already up for the 2022 season. Many new registrants are minorities.

“Atlanta is such a hotbed for minorities in general. The Braves having success will steer those kids toward baseball instead of football or basketball or other traditional routes,” said Slayton.

Slayton said the Black community is especially impacted, calling Atlanta a “mecca” for Black baseball.

That interest is reflected in the Braves 2021 RBI team, which was the only predominantly Black team in the national tournament.

16-year-old Chase Reeves, a student-athlete at Tucker High School, played shortstop and second base for the RBI team. He said he noticed all eyes on his team before they stepped on the field.

“They definitely noticed,” said Reeves when asked about the racial makeup of his team. “When we were in the batting cages, people would be staring because people didn’t expect us to be that good.”

The Braves RBI team won the 2021 Junior World Series tournament, just weeks before the MLB Braves brought home a trophy of their own.

“We won the World Series the same year they won the World Series,” said Reeves. “It was surreal. Honestly, it didn’t feel real because a lot of people doubted us.”

As the major league Braves and youth program Braves teams head into a new season with championship titles, Slayton said adults should support initiatives that support minorities interested in the sport.

“We need to take that momentum and push hard to get minorities playing at high levels,” he said. “There are a lot of kids who have the skillset, the drive, the hunger - but they don’t know how to navigate the space.”

The number of Black and Latin players in the MLB peaked at 18.5 percent in 1975 and has steadily decreased over time.

Slayton said Black athletes make up just 7 percent of the MLB, but he hopes to see that number go up.