FLORENCE, S.C. — “Breathe,” Bryson Graves told himself.
The West Florence junior then settled down and made his impact on the WWBA Underclass World Championships in Fort Myers, Fla. In his first action Thursday for the “Breakthrough Series” team, Graves went two innings of no-hit ball, throwing 19 pitches and topped out at 90 miles per hour.
No-hitters are nothing new to Graves, who threw a five-inning no-hitter against Lamar to begin the Knights’ spring season. With current Citadel pitcher, George Derrick Floyd, Graves combined with him later that season for a five-inning, no-hitter against Wilson.
For this event, Graves was one of 23 student-athletes selected by Major League Baseball (Graves was the lone South Carolina pick). All MLB-selected players are Black or Latino athletes graduating in either 2023 or ‘24 and have participated in previous diversity focused development initiatives, such as the Breakthrough Series, DREAM Series and Hank Aaron Invitational.
Graves previously participated in the Hank Aaron Invitational.
This opportunity gives these young athletes an opportunity to compete together against the best in the Nation with professional scouts and college recruiters watching. The coaching staff is helmed by Lou Collier. He is joined by former Major Leaguers Jerry Manuel, Tye Waller, and Sergio Santos. Morehouse College baseball coach Antonio Grissom rounds out the staff.
“To be honest, this is just surreal,” Graves said. “I’m playing the best of the best with the best of the best. Whether you win or lose, you still come out as friends. It’s just about making great memories right now. You want to grasp it all while you’re here because not many are getting this opportunity.”
Knowing scouts are watching, Graves keeps things simple.
“The adrenaline is always there. But once you’re playing, you can’t really think about anything like the scouts,” said Graves, who is also playing in the outfield this weekend. “I’ve just got to go out there and play my game. That’s my No. 1 goal.”
Graves, whose team won Thursday but lost its first game Friday, has one more pool-play contest before bracket play begins.
Regardless of what happens, Graves wants to keep enjoying the experience.
“I never thought something like this was going to happen,” Graves said. “Once I started playing baseball, I just played it for fun. But when you start doing big things, you’ve got to come back down to earth and be humble. Anybody can do what they want to do if they put their mind to it. Just be humble and work hard. I’m just happy to know I’m getting there to my big goal.”