KANSAS CITY -- The Breakthrough Series participants at the Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City learned from a bevy of former All-Star players and coaches over the four-day trip, but they were able to glean teachings from a few guests as well.• Complete Breakthrough Series coverageHall of Famer and Royals
KANSAS CITY -- The Breakthrough Series participants at the Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City learned from a bevy of former All-Star players and coaches over the four-day trip, but they were able to glean teachings from a few guests as well.
• Complete Breakthrough Series coverage
Hall of Famer and Royals legend George Brett spoke to the group on Monday during the third day of the event. The program, sponsored by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball, aims to provide instruction and exposure for players from underserved communities across the country.
Brett opened his speech by explaining how, being from California, he and many other players weren't used to the heat and humidity in Kansas City. The conditions made many players not want to play at all, something he could understand but still discouraged.
"Guess what happens if you want to play?" Brett said. "You stand out. You stand out to scouts, and you stand out from other people."
Brett went on to explain the benefits of having this determination, especially for a batch of players with as much potential as this one.
"You guys have a unique opportunity. You are the best of the best," Brett said. "You're going to have scouts watching you. You're going to have college coaches watching you. You're going to play in heat like this. If you play harder than anybody else on that given day when that scout or that college coach sees you, guess what? He's going to write down good things in his book."
On Tuesday, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton spoke to the players ahead of their game at Kauffman Stadium that night. The participants attended the game as guests of the Royals and met Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore.
Escobar and Hamilton each spoke to the group before doing a brief Q&A. The kids were eager with questions about pregame preparation, Escobar's childhood in Venezuela and whether Hamilton thinks he's getting faster or slower as his career moves on.
"Man, I'm getting old," Hamilton, only 27, joked. The older coaches were not as amused as the players.
Hamilton made sure to reinforce to the players that baseball is a game of failure, an adage as old as the sport itself. He emphasized that it's how one deals with that failure that makes the difference.
"I'm struggling at the plate right now," Hamilton said. "But that's one thing about me as a player. Just because I'm struggling doesn't mean I'm going to stop playing defense. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop running the bases. Doesn't mean I'm going to get lazy as a player in the outfield."
Hamilton went on to explain how, even in times of struggle, the key to obtaining and maintaining success is believing in yourself.
"One thing you got to do, guys, is always have that confidence," Hamilton said. "Always feel like you're the best player out there. Not saying go out there and show guys up, but have that swag, have that thinking that 'I'm better than you.'"
Hamilton and Escobar may not have as many accolades as some of the instructors, but for the players to come face-to-face with regular big leaguers they've watched on TV for much of their adolescence provided a fresh experience. After all, these are the guys that the young players modeled themselves after.
"I just want to be just as good as [Hamilton and Escobar]," said Emanuel Dean, an outfielder from Anaheim, Calif., "or even better."
Jordan Wolf is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.