Smith tells EW that his character Damon Sims' "journey throughout the first season is finding his love for the game."

When Peyton Alex Smith started working on the backdoor pilot of All American: Homecoming, he hadn't been on a pitcher's mound in nearly two decades. "That was my first time holding a baseball in like, 17 years," he tells EW ahead of the series premiere on Feb. 21. Between shooting that All American episode and the Homecoming premiere, he trained to make sure he looked like he knew what he was doing — a necessity as one half of the central duo on the spinoff.

The new series follows All American's Simone Hicks (Geffri Maya) as she moves to Atlanta to attend Bringston University. While attempting to start a new life and reclaim her success as a tennis player, Simone comes across new friends and teammates, including elite baseball player Damon Sims (Smith), who has put his MLB dreams on hold to play for Bringston.

All American: Homecoming
Peyton Alex Smith as Damon Sims
| Credit: The CW

"You can see he's been taught by his mother that he's the only thing that maters," Smith says. "There's a selfish nature to Damon, and now that he's coming to this team, his goal is to bring notoriety and attention to the HBCU's baseball team." Used to being a star, Damon will have to learn to be part of a team (and if he does, a successful collegiate career might just help him with his major league dreams).

Bringston University provides some non-athletic opportunities for Damon as well. He was drawn to the HBCU in large part because he is searching for the identity of his birth parents, who he knows were once students there. "One of the reasons Damon goes to Bringston is he's searching for who he truly is," Smith says. "Throughout the season, the dynamic [between Damon and his mother] is fun to play because there's lots of ups and downs in that relationship as Damon tries to find himself as a young adult away from their parents." At this point, his mom is more a momager, given the pressure she places on Damon to go pro.

Damon also faces pressure from himself, as he feels a responsibility to make sure the Bringston team is successful. The athlete will encounter some role model figures to help with that, including Coach Marcus Turner (Cory Hardrict) and Jessie "JR" Raymond (Sylvester Powell). "Marcus is a teaching figure, so his players are most important to him," Smith says. "[Coach Turner] definitely teaches Damon a lot about how to play baseball the right way."

All American: Homecoming
Credit: The CW

In addition to exploring Damon's relationships with his mom, coach, friends, and the game itself, Homecoming highlights the diminishing representation of Black players in baseball. While Black athletes make up a large portion of the NFL and a majority of the NBA, less than 10 percent of MLB players are Black. Show creator Nkechi Okoro Carroll points out that because of costly equipment and club travel costs, many Black people are being priced out. "My son plays baseball, which is why I have such a passion and love for the sport," she tells EW, adding that baseball has a deeper meaning: "Jackie Robinson and the Negro League. Seeing what baseball meant to our culture and seeing how the sport is struggling for representation. It just felt like a goldmine to explore," she says.

One piece of Homecoming's baseball storyline is exploring the HBCU team's demographic. "A lot of HBCU baseball teams aren't all Black players, because literally there are not enough to fully fill out baseball teams," Carroll says. "One of the most diverse areas in terms of multicultural representation at an HBCU is the baseball diamond." The team is its own microcosm of life at an HBCU, which is "part of the reason why Damon is so motivated to bring the sport back to the culture and to be an example of what the legacy of this sport can be," Carroll adds.  

Amidst the exploration of relationships and representation, a love for the sport shines through on Homecoming. "Our show can be a catalyst for showing African American kids that baseball is fun," Smith says. "I was researching and found a loving sport. That's something Damon goes through as well, because it's become more of a business for him, and his journey throughout the first season is finding his love for the game."

All American: Homecoming premieres Feb. 21 at 9pm ET on The CW.

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