The Charleston RiverDogs (Low A; Sally League) have been ahead of the times when it comes to diversity, having previously hosted salutes to the Negro Leagues, the 1955 Cannon Street Little League team who were refused the right to play baseball due to racism, and Hall Of Famer Larry Doby, the second African-American to play Major League Baseball behind Jackie Robinson.
Doby was signed by Bill Veeck, Hall Of Fame MLB owner and father of the RiverDogs president emeritus Mike Veeck. With so many inclusive events, hosting Advancing the Conversation Saturday at Joseph P. Riley Park seemed like a good fit.
Advancing The Conversation in the second of four events to introduce a state-level process for developing the Quality of Community Life Initiative in South Carolina. The event is being organized by Dr Graeme Coetzer, a professor of Organizational and Community Development at the College of Charleston and the Director of the Institute for Community Development. The idea for the event came after the tragic shooting at a Charleston church last year.
“Last year after the Charleston tragedy, John Miller, the CEO of Denny’s (which is based in South Carolina), approached me and asked what can we do besides contributing to a victims fund,” Coetzer said. “How can we bring diverse community leaders together to start a dialogue and learn how people respond to human differences?”
Coetzer has studied this specialty around the world for over 20 years. He said the purpose of this was to bring leaders together to identify constructive actions for different communities to take together instead of focusing on their differences.
“Instead of pointing fingers at each other, the goal is to listen and learn from one another,” Coetzer said. “We can translate diversity into value as well as individual and social growth and the RiverDogs have been extremely supportive.”
RiverDogs President and GM Dave Echols attended the first event in September with 350 community leaders from around South Carolina. It was there that Echols suggested the team host an event.
“Personally I believe that sports are powerful in its messaging abilities and can bring awareness to a cause,” Echols said. “I believe the Charleston RiverDogs are a great fit for what Graham is doing.”
Echols said he witnessed the power of diverse communities coming together in the wake of the Charleston church shooting.
“That was a tragic event and we considered not playing but the mayor (Joseph P. Riley Jr) asked us to continue playing. The park was packed to capacity and it wasn’t because of our promotions or what team we were playing,” Echols said. “It was a place where the entire community could come together and be in a comfortable setting to feel normal until we could process how to move on from that tragedy. It was a unique atmosphere for the next two or three games that I can’t really explain.”
Promoting that atmosphere is something Echols said fit in with their weekend festivities. “The feedback for all of these events has been positive and this event fits into the messaging of the weekend.”
And for Coetzer, he hopes the 100 attendees watching the RiverDogs events take something away with them after the event is over. “Our event is before the game and they can see how the game is oriented towards that theme of diversity and inclusiveness,” Coetzer said. “It’s amazing and awesome that baseball can support social intervention and development and encourage stronger communities.”