Roy Wood Jr., Harold Reynolds highlight MLB Network's coverage of Rickwood Field Negro Leagues tribute

"We get to tell people who these players were, who they are and their talent," Reynolds said

Major League Baseball is paying tribute to the Negro Leagues and Hall of Famer Willie Mays with minor-league and major-league games played this week at legendary Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Mays is a Birmingham native and former Birmingham Black Barons player.

The showcase game between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals will be played Thursday. Both teams will wear period uniforms in a nod to the Negro League histories of their respective cities. Fox will televise the game, a regular-season contest, beginning at 7:15 p.m. ET.

"There was over 130 Hall of Famers that played at Rickwood," MLB Network's Harold Reynolds told Yahoo Sports. "So when I see those fences, it takes me back to my first trip to Fenway, my first trip to Wrigley, my first trip to Yankee Stadium. That's the family that this field is in ... That's stuff that you go, 'Babe Ruth hit a ball where?' That's the cool part of history, and we're losing that."

In a bit of fortuitous timing, the tribute game will be played a few weeks after Negro League statistics were officially integrated into MLB's historical record.

"We get to tell people who these players were, who they are and their talent," Reynolds said. "That's what this is about."

On Tuesday, the Birmingham Barons (Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) will host the Montgomery Biscuits (the Tampa Bay Rays' Double-A affiliate) at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on MLB Network, with Rich Waltz and Chris Young calling the broadcast and former "The Daily Show" correspondent Roy Wood Jr. working as the sideline reporter.

Roy Wood Jr. and Harold Reynolds doing a
Roy Wood Jr. and Harold Reynolds doing a "Walk and Talk" after speaking at Ramsay High School in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo courtesy Parker Freedman/MLB Photos)

Wood is a Birmingham native who previously worked with MLB Network as host of the “All-MLB Team Show” last December. Being the sideline reporter for Tuesday's minor-league game is like "dusting off the journalism degree," he said.

"It's just about maintaining the celebratory spirit about why we're here and at the park," Wood told Yahoo Sports. "For me, my plan is to try to be the eyes and ears for people who cannot come to Rickwood. But if there's an opportunity to add in an extra fact about the city of Birmingham or the people of Birmingham, my job is to make sure that we don't forget why we're here and why this field is so damn interesting.

"We're talking about a field where the original depths ... it was 480 straight-away back in the day, 400 down the line," he added. "Then the right-field line is like 320 and then juts out to 390 or something ridiculous. I won't say 'drunk' on the broadcast, but who drew these dimensions?"

Reynolds thinks Wood's ability to tell stories about growing up in Birmingham and playing at Rickwood Field will engage viewers and make him perfect for the job.

"I can tell a story about the time when Ensley High School forfeited a game to us because they got into a fight with each other in their own dugout," Wood said. "I'm pretty sure Rickwood is the only baseball field where a team lost a game because of fighting with each other. Lavert Andrews did not run out a grounder, like he should have, and his teammate called him 'sorry.' Lavert punched him in the face."

On Wednesday, the Barnstorm Birmingham event celebrating Juneteenth will feature a celebrity softball game. That broadcast will be televised Thursday on MLB Network at 2:30 p.m. ET, between "MLB Central" and "MLB Tonight" pregame shows live from Rickwood Field. Reynolds and Young will be on the call.

Among those participating in the softball game will be former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, NFL veterans Terrell Owens and Dwight Freeney, Cleveland Browns quarterback Jameis Winston (who grew up in the Birmingham area) and NBA veterans Stephen Jackson and J.R. Smith. Wood Jr. will also play, alongside actors Omari Hardwick, Phoebe Robinson and Lil Rel Howery.

"I'm gonna be the first person at a celebrity game to drag bunt," Wood said. "You know, Chuck Carr was my inspiration. Brett Butler, Willie McGee, those are the guys I wanna be."