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MLB head of youth sports Reagins discusses game's future

LOS ANGELES -- Tony Reagins has spent decades in the game of baseball, and he's worked in everything from marketing to baseball operations. Reagins, formerly the general manager of the Angels, has taken on a new assignment with Major League Baseball as the senior vice president of youth programs, and he took some time Tuesday to discuss his plans for the future.

Reagins, under new Commissioner Rob Manfred, will be in charge of consolidating the league's relationships with youth, high school and college baseball organizations around the country. Reagins attended the Civil Rights Game instructional clinic Tuesday at Rancho Cienega Recreation Center, and he spoke a bit about Jackie Robinson, the Urban Youth Academies and the future of the game. Can you tell us a bit about your new role with MLB?

Tony Reagins: We are really excited about this opportunity. It's one where there's an opportunity to change lives at the grass roots level. It's an opportunity to enhance lives and give kids an opportunity to play baseball around the country in all communities.

We're really excited about the opportunity and it's one that we plan to grow. It's one that's really important to Commissioner Manfred and one we take very, very seriously. We're excited. We think there's a lot of growth potential, and we have a chance to impact lives in a positive way. Is it refreshing and fun for you to work with kids after being at the big league level?

Reagins: It is, because that's what baseball is all about. It's a kid's game. There's an innocence to it. I'm just excited to be able to touch lives. If we can offer baseball to all kids in all communities, you can't lose with that. We can't wait to hit the ground running. We already have a number of programs in place that we plan to build upon. We just can't wait to get started. How important is it to you to emphasize being in the community?

Reagins: Extremely important. It's not just to be in the community, but to be a part of the community, and to be a part of the community for a long-term basis. We obviously have academies around the country in place today, and there are plans to even grow that. But we want to not just be inserted into the community. We want to stay in it. That's really important. Can you talk a little bit about today's event in relation to Jackie Robinson and the Civil Rights Game? It's Jackie Robinson Day [today], here in Los Angeles, with Jackie's team.

Reagins: It's special. When you hear the stories [of what] Jackie Robinson went through. ... I had the chance to work with Preston Gomez, who was a coach with Jackie, and we talked at length about Jackie and what he went through in being the only person of color on the Dodgers at that time.

Not being able to shower in the same shower, eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same hotels as his counterparts. Those are powerful experiences. To fast-forward to this where kids have the opportunity to play baseball, I have an opportunity to do what I'm doing. So many others that have gone before me and have had tremendous opportunites to this game. You can attribute most of it to Jackie Robinson. Do you think that the kids understand the opportunity in front of them?

Reagins: We have to keep in mind that the kids are still kids. I think they still have to go through life's experiences, but it's important to give them the opportunity and to insert knowledge at the same time. Knowledge is king. If we can educate and give these kids an opportunity to gain that knowledge -- about not only the game of baseball but life in general -- we're ahead of the game. Does it always help to have former players here to show the kids how to play?

Reagins: This is the part of the game that is extremely important, where we have former players and former coaches coming out on an afternoon where they don't have to come out. They're showing that they're supportive of what we're doing and what we're trying to accomplish.

They care about kids, and they care about the legacy of baseball. That speaks volumes about the individuals that are here and about the Dodgers' organization for really being a part of this program and for providing this baseball field as a renovation project. Can you talk to us about the growth of the Urban Youth Academies?

Reagins: It is important. I think what you see is that given the opportunity -- in Compton, it's 2006 when we started -- but given the opportunity, there's ballplayers out here. Some players didn't even know there was an opportunity to play. Given the opportunity and given a chance to play, players can have a chance to go to the Major Leagues. It's exciting, being able to see players develop and get better on a day-to-day basis. And I think we're just scratching the surface of what it can be.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for