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Chardon's Christian Hall and Archbishop Hoban's Shawn Parnell give hope to young Black kids when it comes to baseball

"That’s all I ever wanted to do is show them that it is possible. Especially trying out for baseball. If you want to do it, you can accomplish it. Just stick with it.”
Shawn Parnell Christian Hall baseball

AKRON, Ohio – With their teams’ seasons on the line in the OHSAA Division II state championship game, Christian Hall of Chardon and Shawn Parnell of Archbishop Hoban stood on the mound under the lights at Canal Park. 

While it might not have seemed important to some at the time, it was significant that these two young men were the ones trying to deliver their teams a state title. Out of the 41 pitchers used over the 12 games in three days in the state tournament, Hall and Parnell were the only two Black players to toe the rubber. 

While in the end it was Hall and the Hilltoppers who bested Parnell and the Knights 8-5, the moment for these two was something they will never forget. 

“I think that typically in this world nowadays, you won’t see that happen,” Parnell said. “So, I think it is extremely special that me and Christian have gotten an opportunity to show our attributes and show our skills.”

Parnell also had some appreciation for what his opponent had just done, as Hall started the game on the mound and went 2⅓ innings before being relieved. He then came back to throw the final two innings and allowed just one hit in those two frames to collect the save.

“He got the job done,” Parnell said. “Kudos to Christian.”

In reality, both of them have gotten the job done. 

Hall and Parnell played football and baseball in high school and have accepted scholarships to play baseball in college — Hall will be attending Alcorn State University and Parnell is going to the University of Cincinnati.

“It just shows younger Black men that we can do whatever we want when we put our minds to it,” Hall said. “You just have to go out there and fight for what you believe in, do what’s right, and anything can happen.”

But for young Black kids, baseball might not be an attractive option, if an option at all. According to a report by Revolt in 2020, the participation among Black kids in baseball has been on the decline: 

Youth baseball participation is tracked by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. SFIA defines “core” as children that have played baseball at least 13 times in a year. The core percentage of Black children playing baseball from the ages 6-12 was only 8.4% — close in proportion to the 8.2% of Black players on MLB opening day rosters in 2020. The numbers are even more paltry as children age with only 6.1% electing to play baseball from ages 13-17. 

Those numbers were also reflected in Akron this past weekend. With 16 teams and 334 players rostered, only eight players listed were Black.

That’s part of the reason Hall and Parnell felt the responsibility and privilege of being players that the younger kids could look up to, especially those Black kids who might think baseball isn’t a game for them.

“I think it is huge,” Parnell said. “I think Christian is really special and honestly, I think it sets an example for the younger Black players coming up. That’s all I ever wanted to do is show them that it is possible. Especially trying out for baseball. If you want to do it, you can accomplish it. Just stick with it.”

Hall echoed those sentiments for his younger Black admirers, and he prides himself on being a good role model they can look up to and aspire to be like one day. He also has a message for those younger Black players who want to pursue the game.

“The world is your oyster,” Hall said. “You can go out and do whatever you set your mind to.”

For Parnell, he grew up loving baseball because of the players he watched. And when he wanted to watch players, he found two of the best in the business to admire.

“Growing up as a kid I used to watch a lot of film on Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr.,” Parnell said. “That’s the reason I wear No. 24. The love of the game of baseball came from them.”

While his love of the game came from his favorite players, one of the things that makes Parnell stand out came from someone much closer. 

“My work ethic definitely has come from my mother,” Parnell said. “She has pushed me every day to get through this and become a better man and ball player.”

Hall’s favorite player is more modern — and a little more local.

“Francisco Lindor has always been my favorite player,” Hall said. “He gives it 100% every play, every at-bat, everything, and I look up to that very much.”

When it comes to pitching, Hall said he doesn’t model his game after anyone because he wants to be unique.

“I just try to create my own and put my own little twist on pitching and just do me,” Hall said. “I don’t want to be like anyone else. I want to be different from everyone else. I want to stand out.”

But why baseball for these two young men? Especially in a society where they could easily be pushed toward playing football over baseball.

While Parnell has joked that his favorite sport depends on what time of year you ask him, he leans toward baseball for the freedom and the atmosphere it provides.

“I feel like in football you have a lot of freedom, too,” Parnell said. “But in baseball, it’s a home. It’s another home from my house, from where I live. It is somewhere that I can come, and I can just let loose, relax and be me every single time.” 

For Hall, baseball was not only an escape, but also a saving grace.

“This game has been the majority of my life,” he said. “I don’t know where I would be without this game — nowhere good, I can tell you that. I have been through some rough patches in life, but it always gets better. You just have to find something you love and keep going after it.”

Both young men have done exactly that — they have found something they love and sought to participate in playing baseball. And by doing so, they have given the younger Black kids someone to look up to who looks like them, just as they had hoped.

“I really just want to use it as motivation and just to be an inspiration to these young kids,” Hall said.

Mission accomplished for both players.

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