A Celebration of Nashville Baseball

Commodores host Wolverines for David Williams Fall Classic

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville and the sport of baseball have a history deeply rooted in the amateur and professional ranks. On Sunday, Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin hopes to bring some added perspective to both when his Commodores face Michigan at Hawkins Field during an exhibition as part of the first-ever David Williams Fall Classic.

Gates open at 10 a.m. Sunday with first pitch scheduled for noon. Admission is free.

“We chose to do something to try to intertwine everything, being Negro League baseball and Major League Baseball in the city of Nashville and it just became a natural to want to honor David and (Williams’ wife) Gail and their family during that time. We just felt like with all of that it became a very good option for us.

“Now we’re going to take this classic and hope to make it an annual thing for us.”

The David Williams Fall Classic was announced in October as an effort to promote diversity in baseball. It also honors the late Vanderbilt vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director who died Feb. 8.

Vanderbilt has worked with Nike, Music City Baseball and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to develop uniforms to pay tribute to Nashville’s rich and diverse baseball tradition. The Commodores will pay homage to the Nashville Stars while the Wolverines will tip their cap to the Detroit Stars – both former Negro League teams.

Corbin’s program is fresh off a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, last month where they toured the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum before playing Oklahoma State in an exhibition.

“It started to clarify history to the players,” Corbin said of that experience. “They started to understand not only what our country looked like at that time, but what players looked like at that time and the separation and segregation of Negro League Baseball and Major League Baseball.

“I think it’s another experience where they’ll look back and say, ‘Yeah, I’m glad we did it. We played against Oklahoma State, but we got to do something inside that experience that we can draw upon moving forward.’ ”

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick, who personally gave the Commodores a tour of his facility in October, is expected to be in attendance Sunday as part of the day-long celebration of baseball. Fans in attendance can take home a free T-shirt and the first 300 fans through the gate will receive a complimentary Vanderbilt desk helmet.

It’s expected to be another memorable day for everyone at the ballpark.

“I think it was an eye-opening experience for all of us,” Vandy sophomore Dominic Keegan said of going to Kansas City. “It know it was was for most of the guys on the team have never been there before. It was just a good experience for all of us to go visit that. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”