The South Atlantic League has unveiled its 2018 Hall of Fame class, featuring three new inductees. The inductees will be honored as part of the festivities surrounding the 59th Annual South Atlantic League All-Star Game, scheduled to be played on June 19, 2018, at First National Bank Field, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
This year’s class includes three Greensboro natives: a former player in the Western Carolina League, a former mayor and a current executive. Former Hickory Rebels player Ken Free, Former Greensboro Mayor Jim Melvin, and Greensboro Grasshopper President and General Manager Donald Moore will be inducted.
Kenneth A. “Ken” Free’s professional baseball career began in 1952 when he played for the semi-pro Greensboro Redbirds at the age of 15. After a three-year stint in the US Army, he joined the Raleigh Tigers in the Negro Leagues in 1959 and played in the last East-West All-Star Game at Comiskey Park in 1959. Ken Free barnstormed with Satchel Paige in 1960, then played for the Western Carolina League’s Hickory Rebels in 1960. In 1978, Free was named the first full-time Commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). For the next 18 years, the visionary and innovative leader took a floundering conference and instilled a growth mindset in its members. The MEAC joined Division I in 1980, and Ken increased the exposure of the conference in regional and national media outlets and publications and led the way in fundraising for the MEAC while providing the stability that allowed the conference to grow. Ken also became a member of the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee and the NCAA Executive Committee. From 1996-2006, Ken served as Commissioner of the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (EIAC). Since 2006, Free has served on the board of the Metropolitan Junior Baseball League (MJBL), which started in Richmond, Virginia and provides opportunities for African-American children to participate in America’s pastime. Ken was instrumental in bringing the MJBL’s Annual Inner-City Classic to Greensboro, which will be held from July 17-22.
E.S. “Jim” Melvin is a lifelong Greensboro resident with a long and successful career in banking and public service as Mayor of Greensboro from 1971-1981. Jim is currently the President of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation. In 199, Jim was responsible for putting together the people and equity that purchased the franchise and ensured that Greensboro would keep its minor league team. Through great persistence and determination, Jim found a way for Greensboro to build a new, downtown baseball stadium. The Bryan Foundation agreed to purchase the land where the Guilford County Public Health Department sat to locate a stadium, and, in addition, Jim built a brand new facility for the County to meet the public health needs. Without Jim’s vision, leadership, and community spirit, the Greensboro Grasshoppers and First National Bank Field would not be the overwhelming success they are. Since the park’s opening in 2005, over five million fans have attended games and well over $200 million worth of downtown development has been built or is under construction due to Jim’s love and passion for Greensboro.
A lifelong Greensboro resident who is in his 17th year as President and General Manager of the Greensboro club, Donald Moore has been recognized as the SAL Executive of the Year four times (2006, 2007, 2008, 2013). Under Donald’s leadership, the Greensboro Grasshoppers have received the SAL Club Merit Award five times (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013), the SAL Community Service Award three times (2014, 2015, 2016) and the Bob Freitas Award, given by Baseball America to the best Class-A organization, in 2008. Donald also serves as chairman of the SAL Scheduling Committee and is also the founder and President of the North Carolina Association of Professional Baseball Teams (NCAPBT), which consists of the 10 minor league teams in North Carolina. Moore was inducted into the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 for his outstanding service to the community through his work with the Grasshoppers and many other youth sports initiatives he has been a part of in his lifetime.
The induction will take place as part of the All-Star Luncheon, sponsored by the Greensboro Sports Council, which will be held at The Terrace at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex onTuesday June 19 with doors opening at 11:00 AM.