Baseball: Redan reflects on impact of state title

Redan baseball coach Marvin Pruitt took his players to see the movie “42’’ this spring. It documented Jackie Robinson’s experience of breaking the color barrier in major-league baseball.

Two years prior, Redan’s players spent spring break in Birmingham, where they visited sites of the civil rights movement. Pruitt also showed them 100-year-old Rickwood Field, where Willie Mays once roamed the outfield for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League.

“We play on history a great deal at Redan,’’ said Pruitt, whose 425 victories in DeKalb are the most in county history. “We try to instill pride in our kids that they’re furthering their development in baseball because of the lack of African-Americans at the major-league level. We’re losing our kids at a younger age to basketball and football, and we’d just like to build the baseball tradition back up in our community.’’

Redan made history of its own Monday when it became the first all-black baseball team from metro Atlanta to win a state championship in the Georgia High School Association. Redan swept 12-time state champion Marist in a best-of-three series.

The victory comes at a time when the numbers of African-American players in the major leagues are at their lowest levels since Jackie Robinson retired. They accounted for only 7.2 percent of major-leaguers in 2012, according to a study by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). From 1968 to 1997, African-Americans made up between 15 and 19 percent of major-leaguers.

Redan is doing more than its share to change that. Three of its graduates – Brandon Phillips (Reds), Chris Nelson (Angels) and Domonic Brown (Phillies) – are in the majors. No Georgia high school has more.

But Pruitt says that declining interest in baseball among young African-American boys is evident in high school sports in DeKalb County, which is predominantly black.

“When you talk about DeKalb recently, you’re talking about basketball,’’ Pruitt said. “The next thing that comes to mind is football. To be honest, baseball is even further down the line. We’ve had more success in track and field. We’re a little behind. Hopefully this [state championship] is the start of some improvement on and off the field.’’

By off the field, Pruitt means facilities. Those for baseball in DeKalb County don’t match those in Cobb, Gwinnett and North Fulton, which can claim 10 of the 12 metro public-school state champions during the past 10 years. The exceptions are Redan and Jason Heyward’s Henry County team (2005).

In DeKalb, only two public high schools (Dunwoody, Stephenson) have lighted fields. Many early season games are stopped after four or five innings because of darkness. To avoid that, Redan played its first seven games, and 24 of 37 overall, on the road.

Redan also lacks indoor hitting cages, which are standard equipment for almost every state contender.

“At Redan, when it rains we have to fight the track team, the basketball team and everybody else and go to the gym,’’ Pruitt said. “Sometimes we resort to the halls in school buildings to have workouts.’’

Lack of resources and financial support is another reason why fewer African-American players are playing professionally, Pruitt said.

“Today, the competition is in travel ball,’’ he said. “For a kid to go up and play at East Cobb (a nationally known program that has trained Heyward, Buster Posey and others), you’re talking $2,000 per summer. A lot of folks don’t have that kind of money.’’

And that doesn’t count the cost of equipment, instruction and travel.

Tradition helps keep interest keen at Redan. Starting in 1999 with Phillips, the all-star second baseman for the Reds, there have been 10 Redan players chosen out of high school into the MLB Draft. Phillips, whose family runs a hitting facility in the Stone Mountain area, has donated to the program and spends much of the off-season working out at Redan’s field.

Several former players and their families maintain an interest in Redan baseball. The parents of Phillips and Chris Nelson were at Monday’s championship series. So were several former college players from Redan.

This year, it’s expected that shortstop Wesley Jones will be drafted and go pro, bypassing his college scholarship to Georgia. Sophomore second baseman James Nelson, the nephew of former No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick Chris Nelson, is highly regarded. Pitcher Brandon Baker (signed with Missouri) and Corderias Dorsey (junior) also are pro prospects.

But for the Redan example to spread elsewhere in Georgia, Pruitt believes there must be help from the outside.

“That’s going have to be a selling job from major-league baseball,’’ Pruitt said. “They’ve gone back into the urban settings in California and Texas. I think it’s something we need in our area, too. We need something to show kids that there is a future in baseball.’’

Former Redan players who have played professional baseball:

Wally Joyner, Brandon Phillips, Milton Hill, Ahmad Woods, Skip Nelloms, Chris Nelson, Ricky Kimball, P.J. Phillips, Pax Briley, Chris Jones, Everett Stull, Neiko Johnson, Andy Taulbee, Domonic Brown, Corey Lima Kelvin Clark, Jamil Phillips, Tim Jones, Marcellous Manuel, Shawn Payne, Jeff Nebel, Patrick Smith, Clarence Watley, Deion Williams

Source: Redan

32 comments Add your comment

S. Thomas Coleman

May 28th, 2013
3:06 pm

Excellent piece, Todd!

And sage words at the end from Coach Pruitt. Instead of MLB going to places thousands of miles away to mine baseball talent, like Curacao and the DR (no disrespect to those nations), more time and resources should be spent doing so here at home. The RBI Program is a good start, but more can and should be done by MLB and its franchises to re-introduce baseball the African-American kids.

Again, great piece, Todd. Congrats to Raider Baseball Nation on the state championship, and to Marist for advancing (AGAIN!) to the finals.

STC

Stephen Black

May 28th, 2013
3:23 pm

Agree, great story Todd.

Amazing job by Coach Pruitt.

GeorgiaMagic

May 28th, 2013
6:55 pm

The Phillips family are very fine people. I know they mean a lot to the Redan community. Porsha could have been drafted in baseball too. MP

same old crap

May 28th, 2013
8:00 pm

so i guess one time out of a hundred the team tha plays with what they’ve got beats the team that can recruit the best HS athletes.

Teve Shankweiler

May 29th, 2013
7:25 am

Congrats to the Redan baseball team!! To win a state championship in any sport is as good as it gets!! To win against an opponent like Marist speaks to so many issues that they had to overcome. Many years ago another group of young men accomplished a goal of a state championship by beating Marist in the final game 17-14. Different day and time, but many of the same improbable situations were overcome. I am blessed to have been part of that team. Great lessons in the social history of Atlanta can be seen in these two events. Way to go guys!!!!

Teve Shankweiler

May 29th, 2013
7:27 am

My bad: Steve Shankweiler

Rossi

May 29th, 2013
7:27 am

Congratulations Coach Pruitt. Amazing job!!! For those who are familiar with what it takes to win these days at the high school level, the Redan story might be the biggest surprise in all of high school athletics this year. I know they have great talent and obviously outstanding coaching, but to beat Marist, Columbus and the others along the way is quite an accomplishment. Way to go Redan!

Clay Grant

May 29th, 2013
7:39 am

Mr. Holcomb – This was a great-great article, and I especially smiled because a few years ago I had a memorable conversation at the Sports Authority in Buckhead with two brothers who were on the Redan team, who were there with their mother to buy some baseball equipment. I should point out one important thing that I think would have brought additional perspective to the article. Wally Joyner, a 16-year major league, all-star, and a Brave near the end of his career, also attended Redan when the schools racial make-up was decidedly different.

Johnny412

May 29th, 2013
8:11 am

So will the ajc do an article when all white teams win championships? I give props to Redan and enjoyed following them. But, we need to stop letting everything be about race. I tip my cap to Redan and proudly say that they were the best team in AAAA, regardless of the color of their skin. MLK famously said, “Judge not by the color of the skin but by the content of the character.” We need to stop having articles that point to race. The point of this SHOULD be that a quality team of quality young men won a championship. And with that said, congrats to Redan!

sportsnut

May 29th, 2013
8:42 am

Congratulations

Dekalb Co Guy

May 29th, 2013
8:52 am

@Johnny412

Its news because its something that has never happen. Redan, a school that has become all black won a championshp in a sport that blacks dont participate in at high rates. All the state baseball championships were reported on. But it was an intriguing story that the ajc chose to write further about.

dekalbBB44

May 29th, 2013
9:17 am

Congrats! Redan HS baseball team remind me of the old Negro baseball league. They MADE do with what they had! I pray that other HS baseball team will use this article as a inspiration. DeKalb please either provide lights at the HS for safety purpose or don’t sponsor the sport.Be it (football, baseball, soccer, track and field, and all other out door sport!!!!!

Ricco

May 29th, 2013
9:40 am

Congrats to the Raiders Baseball team on winning its First state, Title, Reading the article, I am disturbed as a graduate of this high school that the article chooses to take the race angle..Redan is also produced Longtime MLBer Wally Joyner, and several other prospects over the years. Lets not devalue the longtime effort the school overall has done to be excellent. Whether its sports or other wise.

Ricco

May 29th, 2013
9:52 am

@DeKalb Co. Guy, @ DekalbBB44 —-Redan started out as predominately white from the 70s thru the 80s until early 1992. Redan from the jump had alwas been competitive thru those yrs and the the area was prosperous and progressive. since the area became predominately black the community declined. #Foodforthough

zack 42

May 29th, 2013
11:37 am

CONGRATS TO THE TEAM.HOW ABOUT STRENGTHENING THE BOOSTER CLUB AND GOING
TO THE CHURCHES AND COMMUNITY IN METRO ATLANTA FOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR
LIGHTS FOR THE BASEBALL FIELD,INDOOR BATTING CAGE,ETC.

J Reese

May 29th, 2013
11:46 am

Great article Todd! @Johnny”Reb”412 as long as minorities are still becoming “first” then race is always going to be a topic of conversation. Your ignorance is not going to take away what Coach Pruitt and these youngmen accomplished. If you and people like you take your head out of your arse you’ll learn how remarkable these youngmen truly are. Their school system doesn’t provide them lights on the field so they have to work hard and quick in the early months of the season. The programs they competed against have far more resources and at the end of the day they came out on top.

Coach Pruitt suffered some health issues which removed him from the field. They perserved through a tough season beating the vaulted Columbus, Ga program and finally Marist. We are very proud of what they accomplished. Congratulations!

As far as MLB they don’t need to re-introduce baseball to black players they should embrace the black player that choose to play and give them the same opportunities whites and latin players are given. Black youngsters are treated differently in baseball. Lack one of the five tools and you’re out! An average white player with zero baserunning skills and/or speed will always trump a black player with the same failings. Shame on the MLB.

HSFB Follower

May 29th, 2013
11:56 am

Outstanding read!!

Coach Bull

May 29th, 2013
12:13 pm

Great Job Raider Nation and the Redan Coaches !… I too, remember the days glory of Wally Joyner, Milt Hill, Parker King, Keith Kimble & Sylvester “Skip” Nelloms (”88 Yankees draft pick) & Duane Banks (who started @ 3rd base as a 9th grader in the state playoffs ‘81) battling some of the top baseball programs in the early ’80’s ! Redan has always had a stellar baseball program regardless of their racial makeup.. and that’s what makes Redan Great !.. State Championships in (Football, basketball, Track, Baseball, Wrestling, Gymnastics) is unmatched by most of the schools in Metro Atlanta as a whole, considering the fact that in Dekalb County there is a High School every 5-8 miles almost… But let’s not forget about all of the surrounding parks & rec programs ( Gresham, Browns Mill, Redan) and all of the legendary park coaches that have provided the basic fundamentals to many of these players!.. I cut short my vacation to get back for the 2nd game excited to see my former coaches from GPK and Redan @ the game. Coach Marshall (AD for Marist) is one of my former coaches from Redan and to this day, I am honored to be apart of the Great History of the Raider Blue.. you see,… i was that little kid bused out to Redan in the late ’70’s & it was those great coaches (Coach Shankweiler, Marshall, & Barber, Cloer, Mize) that were my father figures & they too, helped me to become one of the best student-athletes that i could be! So for those that want to make it a “racial” thing,…. please make it a “positive” example of people working together for the good of the school & its PROUD ATHLETIC TRADITION ! Thank you Coach Pruitt & Goody for bringing the Championship Home !… Bull Jones Class of ‘84

Guido

May 29th, 2013
12:31 pm

Any team which wins a state baseball title should be celebrated, especially given the quality of prep baseball in this area. Congrats to Redan.
Not at all surprised to see the race-baiting AJC give extra press to this team, even while their coverage of the GHSA state playoffs was pathetic and practically non-existent. Buying unedited stream-of-thought coverage from a media partner is a disservice to the community this paper “serves”, and only further underscores the AJC’s disinterest in the local baseball scene.
But at least now we know why the AJC ignores local baseball…the answer lies within this article.

Dr. Marcus C. Sims

May 29th, 2013
3:32 pm

Congratulations Coach Pruitt. You can add Baseball to Redan’s Championship Trophy case. See you soon. It’s Great to Be a REDAN RAIDER!

Ernest

May 29th, 2013
3:59 pm

Congratulations to the Redan Raiders on this accomplishment!

Riverboat

May 29th, 2013
5:43 pm

Congratulations to Coach Pruitt, Hardnett, Sapp, Mays, Patterson, Atwell, Mrs. Boger, GM Goodwin and those mighty Raider players on winning their 1st State Championship! These players and staff made THEIR OWN history which should be celebrated by becoming 1st BLACK team to win baseball championship! These players truly learned what it means… “PLAY TO WIN” this season. I truly know what it means to be a “Raider” and know what this accomplishment means to the school, community and county! This historical moment truly galvanized a school, community and DeKalb county for different reasons not based on race, creed or religion. It provided Joy, Pride, Hope and Possibilities for everyone that has every played or involved in baseball in DeKalb Co. This program has a LONG, EXTENSIVE history of producing competitive baseball teams, exceptional and quality players as well as quality individuals. However, the program has withstood dramatic social and economic changes and lack of resources but maintained its HIGH expectations and standards from 1976 – present. There is a BIGGER picture than race and we ALL should take our hats off to these young men and baseball staff for their GREAT achievement!

I leave you will this…..” God is good! He will deliver his promise in HIS time but you must keep your FAITH and stay his course as he set forth for you!”

GREAT JOB, RAIDERS!

JROLL1

May 29th, 2013
6:01 pm

congrats to Coach Pruitt, and to his Assistant coaches who took over after his health issues. And Big shout out to Principal Greg Goodwin, the former head baseball coach and Georgia Dug Out Hall of Famer who coached Brandon Phillips. I attended the games and the kids played their hearts out! Way to go Redan Raiders! And to Reb412, I’m sure Marist got plenty of pub when they won their 12 state titles!

Rev Al

May 29th, 2013
9:40 pm

@Jellyroll….I’m sure Marist received plenty of coverage for their state titles, BUT I can guarantee the racial makeup of those teams was NEVER mentioned, as it shouldn’t be.

Rodney B

May 29th, 2013
10:38 pm

Well, it now sounds like it’s time for Phillips, Nelson and Brown to start giving back to Redan so they can continue to compete with those other area programs. Where is the pride gentlemen?

Deidra W

May 29th, 2013
11:05 pm

Great Job Redan Raiders! Congrats Coach Pruitt, Mr. Goodwin and coaches on a job well done. An enormous congrats goes out to all of the players on their hard work and dedication. Great article, great read. Todd.

I am so happy for Redan and can’t wait for the days ahead! As hard as Redan chased the State Championship, everyone should keep their eyes peeled on what the Raiders will achieve in years to come!

Proud to be a parent of a Raider!

NORCROSS DAWG

May 30th, 2013
9:54 am

HEY TEVE SHANKWEILER,,, DID YOU LEARN TO SPELL AT AVONDALE HS? GOOD TO SEE YOUR NAME OUT THERE..LON BUCKLER

BaseballTopFan(c)

May 30th, 2013
4:43 pm

BaseballTopFan(c) would like to CONGRATULATE the Redan Raiders and head coach Marvin Pruitt for winning the state baseball championship !!!

This is a great, great victory for the good, good people of DeKalb County.

Baseball Top Fans supports Redan and high school baseball.

gtr

May 31st, 2013
9:49 am

Anyone from a public school that has shared the same region with a private school has got to be loving this. I wish I could of seen to stupid looks on the Marist fans, players, and coaches faces when they got beat by a team that didnt have half the resources that the mighty war eagles of Marist had. Definitely a motivating moment for some of the underfunded public schools in the area

E.John Edmonds

May 31st, 2013
2:35 pm

Congrats to the Redan Nation………

marc jackson

May 31st, 2013
3:46 pm

WOW……..race, race, race. congrats to REDAN in a major way because they are good…not because they are of color. Don’t simplify those players like that. such ignorance takes away from the great job done.
Secondly, so what Marist has a few facilities etc. I personally know that everyone there is not rolling in the doe and many families are busting tail for that education. its not what you think. 1,200 students (740 in the high school, the rest are 7th and 8th grade) but this school raises and distributes almost 2 million in aid every year. Don’t hate the folks for putting the money into the kids and school. Other communities have it but what are the priorities?? shoes, clothes, cars, jewelry, drinks and being fly…. get the priorities right and don’t hate.
Marist is a pretty nice place though….hahah

Class of 1990 RHS

May 31st, 2013
10:12 pm

I guess the Naysayers should be mad at the braves and ajc for reflecting on Atlantas black baseball heritage this weekend and reflecting on Movie 42 about Jackie Robinson which help inspire my Raiders to never forget the past and focus on the future! http://www.ajc.com/news/news/braves-celebrate-atlantas-black-baseball-heritage/nX76t/. Not to mention winning one for the skipper.

And I quote:
“It would have been wrong not to continue celebrating the role of civil and human rights,” Schiller said. “In many respects, Atlanta is a central part for the Civil Rights movement. So it is a natural fit for baseball to be a part of that, especially when you layer on Hank Aaron and his role.”
With this year’s theater release of “42,” depicting Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line, the topic of black baseball and the Negro Leagues has become pertinent again. Yet, the future of blacks in the game remains as complex as it has ever been, as the best athletes have long been gravitating away from baseball toward football and basketball.

If u didn’t know Derek Schiller is the Braves executive vice president for sales and marketing.

Congratulations Redan Raiders I too won State Soccer Championship in 1988 for RHS. In an Dekalb County first. All Dekalb final four: Shamrock, Druid Hills, Clarkston and Redan. Even at 41 that was one of my crowning moments in life as as young black male from Decatur. I will say it again its Great to be a Redan Raider!