Major League Baseball and USA Baseball recently completed their revamped Breakthrough Series this year, hosting showcases for nine straight days in four different cities: Compton, Calif.; Brooklyn; Bradenton, Fla.; and Cincinnati.
The Breakthrough Series is unique among summer showcases because of the emphasis that is put on teaching and developing players, as well as the fact that the tournament is cost-free.
Raymond S. Kellis (Ariz.) High outfielder Tyler Williams participated in the event at Roselawn Park in Cincinnati and talked about the differences in the Breakthrough Series and USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars.
"In TOS there was a lot more people there, as far as players and scouts watching," he said. "But I feel like the Breakthrough Series was better as far developing and working one-on-one with players."
It was Williams' first experience with the Breakthrough Series, but he said he did enjoy the fact that it was a more personable showcase, with different players getting a chance to show off their talent.
"I liked how the showcase was able to get a little bit of exposure to people who don't get that much all the time," he said.
Getting those players seen is one of the goals of the Breakthrough Series, according to Frank Robinson, MLB's executive vice president of baseball development.
"The Breakthrough Series is a great tool for making sure kids who might have not been scouted or recruited are exposed to decision-makers at the next level," he said in an MLB.com release in February when it was announced the series would be expanding to four sites. "We are looking forward to giving them the chance to take this important step."
USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler echoed those sentiments in the same release.
"This event is a result of USA Baseball’s and MLB’s mission to provide great exposure and opportunity for athletes from urban areas and grow the game of baseball throughout the United States at all levels.”
The Breakthrough Series makes a specific effort to promote baseball for urban players and "especially those from underserved communities."
In addition to being free, the showcase makes a point to have baseball insiders, such as former players, scouts and coaches, available to talk to the players and tell them about what it's like trying to make a career in baseball.
"They basically talked about their lives as baseball players and how they went through minor leagues," Williams said, "and the struggle to get from the minors to the major leagues and how it is a grind.
"And if you want to do it you really have to work for it."
In total, there were 138 players invited to the four Breakthrough Series events.