Music

The Texas Rangers Honor Charley Pride with Minor League Field + Fellowship Program

AP Photo/Brandon Wade

Both country music and professional baseball lost a trailblazer when Charley Pride died on Dec. 12, 2020 from COVID-19 complications.

The former baseball player and longtime Dallas resident became not just a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee but also a part-owner of the Texas Rangers.

On Sunday (March 14), the Major League Baseball club honored a country music legend by unveiling signage for Charley Pride Field at its spring training complex in Surprise, Arizona.

"Mr. Pride's first love was baseball. He pitched professionally in (the Negro Leagues) and Minor Leagues throughout the 1950's before embarking on his Hall of Fame singing career of more than 60 years," the Rangers said in a statement following Pride's death. "Mr. Pride then became a regular participant at Texas Rangers spring training camps in Pompano Beach and Port Charlotte, Florida and Surprise, Arizona, working out with the team and staging an annual clubhouse concert for players and staff, a tradition that continued through this past spring."

The Rangers honored Pride again on what would've been his 87th birthday (March 18). That's when Pride's wife Rozene joined Garth Brooks and Neal McCoy to help announce the Charley Pride Fellowship Program.

Per a press release, the 10-week fellowship will "help create a launching pad for students from diverse backgrounds looking to gain baseball front office experience" by hiring, training and supporting five rising college juniors or seniors. The fellows will rotate through three front office departments and will select their departmental rotation based on their interests.

For more on the fellowship program, click here.

One of Pride's final live performances came in July 2020 when he sang the National Anthem at the Rangers' new Globe Life Field in Arlington for the team's season opener against the Colorado Rockies.

Read More: Charley Pride + His Wife Rozene: A 60-Plus Year Love Story

The Sledge, Mississippi-born son of sharecroppers played in the Negro American League for the Memphis Red Sox and the Birmingham Black Barons before finding success as Nashville's first Black country star since DeFord Bailey.

Pride also played in the minor leagues for the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds organizations. Before fully shifting attention from his ballplayer dreams to music, Pride tried out for the Los Angeles Angels, an MLB club then owned by another Country Music Hall of Famer, Gene Autry.

Pride's accolades as a country singer include three Grammys, a Country Music Association (CMA) Entertainer of the Year award (1971) and the CMA's Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the '70s, Pride became RCA Records' best-selling solo superstar since Elvis Presley.

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The Texas Rangers Honor Charley Pride with Minor League Field + Fellowship Program