HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Before hearing his name called in the 2021 MLB Draft, Texas Southern University pitcher Kamron Fields spent a season wondering if he'd ever return to the baseball field at all.
Now, with his eyes set on Tampa Bay, the Garland, Texas-native is calling on other athletes to follow their diamond dreams at historically Black colleges and universities.
In July, Fields stood alone as the only player drafted from an HBCU, with the 611th pick by the Rays in the 20th round of the 2021 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
But as COVID-19 infections swelled, shortening the 2020 season, Fields couldn't help shake the feeling that 2019 might have been his last chance to play.
In the wake of international demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd last summer, a number of athletes playing for Power Five universities like UT and Texas A&M decided to take their talents to HBCUs across the country.
Fields was one of those players, making what he said was a principled move from UT after three years to spend his final season at TSU.
"I felt the best thing I could do at the time was use what I do best - and that's play baseball - to help with what I want to see, and that's progression in our communities," Fields said. "I felt like by using and displaying my talents at an HBCU, I could represent them, and that was something that I knew could be immediate and effective."
Tiger Nation took quickly to Fields, who in 13 appearances struck out 79 batters, and had a 5.03 earned run average in 68.0 innings pitched.
Fields' selection by the Rays in July marked the first time since 2007 that TSU had a player selected in the MLB draft, becoming the highest selected right-handed pitcher in program history.
With high hopes for Tampa Bay, Fields is now encouraging athletes to use the game to contribute to change they believe in.
"Don't be afraid," Fields said. "If it was easy, everyone would do it. If it's something that you truly care about, pushing the culture forward, continue to progress and push representation for HBCUs."