COMPTON, Calif. -- The future is bright for six amateur baseball players who signed National Letters of Intent to play NCAA Division I college baseball during a ceremony Saturday afternoon at MLB's Youth Academy in Compton."This is what it's all about," said Tony Reagins, MLB's senior vice president of youth
COMPTON, Calif. -- The future is bright for six amateur baseball players who signed National Letters of Intent to play NCAA Division I college baseball during a ceremony Saturday afternoon at MLB's Youth Academy in Compton.
"This is what it's all about," said Tony Reagins, MLB's senior vice president of youth programs.
Julian Boyd and Rhese Gomez are headed to the University of Nevada-Reno; Matthew Elizade is going to Loyola Marymount University; Tristan Thomas signed with the University of the Pacific; Julian Tristan chose Santa Clara University; and Yuji Sakane is on his way to Pepperdine University.
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For Boyd, a native of Compton, Saturday represented the next step in a baseball journey that began a few blocks away from the Youth Academy.
"It's a little bit more special than signing at school, just because of all the help they gave me," said Boyd, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder. "My dad used to take me here after school every day when I was 10 to 12. Two years straight, every day, just coming to get work. It was big."
Thomas said he's been waiting for this day since he was a freshman at Ayala High School in Chino, Calif.
"I just feel like it's a great opportunity for me to go to college, get a great education and continue doing what I love," said Thomas, an outfielder. "The Academy helped me by growing up, seeing guys like Dominic Smith, Hunter Greene make it. It really helped me believe in myself."
Tristan, a right-handed pitcher and outfielder, said he would not have made it this far in his baseball career without his family and the support of the YA.
"It's great having the Youth Academy behind me," Tristan said. "Being able to learn from a bunch of former Major League players is something that not everybody gets a chance to do. I'm really blessed to be in this situation."
Sakane, a left-handed pitcher, said Saturday's ceremony "means a lot, because ever since I started playing baseball, playing in college has been one of my goals."
Elizade called it a "blessing" and a "dream come true" to earn a scholarship to play college baseball as a catcher.
Darrell Miller, MLB's president of youth and facility development, was pleased to see two left-handed pitchers, two right-handed pitchers and a catcher among the signing class.
"This is really a proud moment," Miller said. "This is the best group of prospects that are in those skill-specific positions that we have really been trying to support. This is a good day."
The most important thing for these players moving forward is a college education.
"It's been a long run, but it feels good to finally feel like you've gotten to a point where you've accomplished a big part of what you wanted to do since you started playing ball," said Gomez, a right-handed pitcher and outfielder. "It's always a big thing to get your college education out of baseball."
All six players were aided in their baseball and academic development by the staff at the YA in Compton. In addition, Boyd, Gomez, Thomas, Tristan and Sakane participated in MLB's Breakthrough Series and the MLB Players Association Elite Development Invitational camp.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.