Arkansas's only black college head baseball coach pushes younger generation toward greatness

Pine Bluff native, Carlos James, is using his success & the success of another Pine Bluff native, Torii Hunter, to inspire younger generations to strive for greatness on and off the field at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.

Carlos James is head coach of the UAPB Golden Lions. He is entering his 8th season as the only black college head baseball coach in the state. KTHV

Carlos James

 

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) – If you are in Pine Bluff, you’ll see cars rushing by just off University Drive. But that’s also where you’ll find Carlos James just a few days before opening weekend.

“Like everybody else we’re optimistic about the season and we look to return to our championship form,” said James.

James is beginning his eighth season leading the Golden Lions. The Pine Bluff native returned home in 2010, prior to that he was making history when UAM’s Alvy Early named James the team’s head coach.

“He hired me as the head baseball coach there which had never been done at Arkansas-Monticello or the Gulf South conference, ever. We’re talking 2008, 2009,” said James.

Nearly a decade later, James remains the only African-American college head baseball coach in the state of Arkansas.

“I have to make sure I do everything right, because in order for me to get that opportunity I have to keep that program above average and I think we’re doing that here,” he added.

And of course, James is a hit in Pine Bluff. He and the Golden Lions have captured three of the last four SWAC Western Division titles.

“It’s honestly been a blessing so far.  He’s tough on us but he definitely means well. He’s a good guy to look up to. We work hard every day and he applauds us for that and he pushes us to be the best we can be,” said second baseman, Ryan Mallison.

When James was in seventh grade, the University of Arkansas hired Nolan Richardson.

“That was one of my favorite African-American stories and when he was hired by the University of Arkansas. I was like wow! You have a black coach at Arkansas and I was fortunate enough to go to school and see him win a national championship. So, I saw how he carried himself and so I try to mimic the same thing here,” said James.

Torii Hunter

 

His success and vision has caught the eye of another Pine Bluff native, who knows a thing or two about baseball. That guy’s name is Torii Hunter.

If you didn't know, Hunter is a former professional baseball player. He's played for several teams including the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. Hunter not only debuted professionally in the late 90's with the Twins, but he also rounded out his career with them in 2015.

“We kind of cut from the same cloth, we sat up numerous amounts of nights talking and hanging out at my father in law’s house and we talk about strategies and how can we make and not just Pine Bluff but in this world and in this community,” said Hunter.

Now, moving forward James and Hunter will continue to work together to get African-American kids more involved with not only playing college baseball but coaching on the biggest stage as well.

“Carlos calls on me, I’m going to fly in and do what I can to give these kids a fighting chance,” added Hunter.

James said not only do they play baseball, they play winning baseball. And they’re winning in the classroom too.

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