Tim Bennett announces the Hank Aaron Sports Academy on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in JXN.

Baseball promoter Tim Bennett is making good on plans to turn JXN’s Smith Wills Stadium into a place where dreams are made.

The man who brought the Mississippi Braves to Pearl and the Biloxi Shuckers to the Gulf Coast has announced the Hank Aaron Sports Academy.

Named for the late, great homerun standout and Mobile native “Hammerin’” Hank Aaron, the goal is to train young players who are already involved in recreational and travel league baseball – together. Bennett will call upon the helping hands of minor league players already in town for games at Trustmark Park and former Major League Baseball hall-of-famers for clinics and camps. 

“Through local and national financial support, the Academy will provide an opportunity for high schools to host, practice and play games on a modern and up-to-date baseball facility,” a news release said. “It is our hope and goal that this level of competition, exposure and training will increase our youths and their parents’ interest in the sport of baseball.”

The academy begins this spring with a tournament, possibly the third or fourth week of April, depending on continuing work on the fields. Additional tournaments are promised for June through September, with a “special surprise” in October.

Hank Aaron clapping his hands.

Last February, when Bennett’s plans for spring 2020 were about to launch before COVID-19, he said, “(Major League) Baseball said they want more minorities, but they haven’t attracted them. Give them a place to play, train and practice, and then they can play at a higher level.”

“We want to thank Major League Baseball for their willingness to support this effort in the City of Jackson,” said Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “We want to open up an array of opportunities for young people. It is a lot easier telling a young person what to do than simply telling them what not to do. The more opportunities we can avail them to, the better we will all be for it.”

“Youth sports brings in people,” the Mayor said of other impacts from the academy. “There’s nothing that brings people in than what you do for their children. If you can bring opportunity for their children, they will come and visit, and this can grow. I don’t think we know quite yet know how big and beautiful this opportunity is.”

Former Atlanta Braves baseball and Atlanta Falcons football player Brian Jordan made the trip to Jackson for the announcement.

“Hank Aaron is the reason why I signed with the Braves,” he said. “His leadership on the field and off the field drove what I do in my foundation – giving scholarships and writing children’s books and the importance of literature. It’s beyond baseball. The chance to be here today to announce the academy, I wouldn’t miss it.”

Bennett added, “We hope to carry on the legacy, leadership and influence Hank had on the game of baseball through honoring him and his achievements as we prepare the next generation of players.”