Hall of Famer Rod Carew invoked the name of Jackie Robinson last night when he discussed breaking the color barrier with 60 high school players gathered from around the country. A different kind of breakthrough is occurring this week at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, CA, where Major League Baseball and USA Baseball have teamed up to present its inaugural Breakthrough Series.
The Breakthrough Series is a major new initiative which provides urban youth with access to the types of scouting opportunities usually reserved for high school players with the financial wherewithal to travel to showcases. MLB and USA Baseball are providing all-expenses-paid trips for 60 prospects to the academy, where they will be evaluated by scouts from major league teams, participate in instructional clinics run by the Los Angeles Angels and experts in nutrition and body conditioning, attend an Angels-Indians game and participate in talks by guest speakers such as Carew.
Carew, an 18-time All-Star, whose illustrious career included AL Rookie of the Year, AL MVP and Roberto Clemente awards, played for the Angels from 1979-1985. The lifetime .328 hitter, who stole home 17 times in his career, spoke to prospects on topics ranging from respect for the game, using the mind (the "sixth tool"), hustle, character and steroids.
"I believe you will see that the game will be played differently because of the Commissioner’s efforts to clean up the game," he said after his talk. "There will be greater emphasis on speed and base stealing and less on the home run," said Carew.
After Carew’s discussion, the 60 players divided into three teams and took the field for a variety of drills, including infield/outfield practice, throwing and batting practice. Thecoaching staff, selected from among Major League Baseball’s Scouting Bureau, the Urban Youth Academy and college staffs, workied individually with players on finer points from footwork when fielding grounders to working with fungoes.
Nicole Hummel, a registered dietician for Athletes Performance, spoke to the players about nutrition, including protein shakes and creatine, the importance of hydration and how carb intake affects performance.
Tomorrow’s schedule will provide testing, an instructional clinic by the Angels and a trip to watch the first-place Angels take on the Indians.