Young teens hope for Breakthrough
Players from all over the country to play in new series
COMPTON, Calif. -- They've come from the Bronx, from Chicago, from Georgia and here in California. When they leave, the 60 high schoolers who have come to the Urban Youth Academy for the first Breakthrough Series hope they have taken the first step in securing a future that involves the game of baseball.
Approximately one year ago, Major League Baseball started tossing the idea for this first-of-its-kind showcase with USA Baseball. The event, designed to give exposure to rising high school players from urban areas throughout the country who generally have not participated in other travel and high-end tournaments, began officially on Monday evening with a workout at the Urban Youth Academy here in Compton.
"This has been a long time coming, in terms of planning and preparation," said Frank Marcos, the director of the Major League Scouting Bureau, one of the groups that selected a team and was instrumental in organizing this event. "To finally see and meet the kids and coaches, this is hugely exciting. I'm extremely excited for out staff to be a part of it, for Major League Baseball's staff."
"I know the kids are excited," Marcos continued before the players headed to the workout. "They can't wait to get to the ballpark. This is a big first step and we can't wait to get started."
There will be three teams at the Breakthrough Series. One is chosen by the Scouting Bureau, one by USA Baseball and the final team was selected by the Atlanta-based organization Mentoring Viable Prospects (MVP), which focuses on supporting young athletes in both academic and athletic settings to obtain college scholarships. A large majority of the players attending will be a part of the 2009 Draft class and there should be plenty of scouts and college recruiters on hand over the next few days.
After the workout on Monday night, the teenagers will take part in a two-hour clinic with players from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Tuesday morning. From there, they'll go to Angel Stadium that evening for a meet and greet with the Angels and to take in the game against the Indians.
Then the games will begin. Each team will play a doubleheader on Wednesday and again on Thursday, giving those on hand plenty of opportunity to gauge the talent level of the prepsters on hand.
"I know there'll be a large number of scouts," Marcos said. "Everybody's been invited and will be here if they can. We'll be scouting it and doing video -- what we do at regular events. All the clubs will get the video and reports."
That, by itself, may put several of these players on the map for the first time, though the rosters are not devoid of previously known talent. The MVP team in particular has some higher-profile players from the southeastern part of the country.
The vast majority of the players brought here, however, haven't had the opportunity to be seen before. One of the largest obstacles for these players has been opportunity, as many of the top showcases have entry fees that are beyond the means of many involved in this event. USA Baseball is taking care of all expenses for the players, enabling dozens to follow that baseball dream which previously seemed like an unattainable goal.
"I had one mother who told me, 'You don't know how important this is. We've had invitations, but we couldn't afford it,'" Marcos said. "I told her, 'You are exactly what we're trying to accomplish with this.' This is touching a lot of lives. Her son had the opportunity to participate in this and she was beyond words.
"This is a first step. Next year will be even bigger and better."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.