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Garrett inspires youth at Dream Series camp

Reds lefty praises opportunity provided at MLK weekend event
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Amir Garrett spent Friday morning grinding at the Reds' Spring Training complex in Goodyear.

Camp starts next month, and the left-hander wants to be ready when pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks. He's either going to start or pitch out of the bullpen this season, and he's fine doing either job. He's just as confident that his team is going to surprise the doubters this year. Plus, there's a new manager and pitching coach in Cincinnati to impress.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Amir Garrett spent Friday morning grinding at the Reds' Spring Training complex in Goodyear.

Camp starts next month, and the left-hander wants to be ready when pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks. He's either going to start or pitch out of the bullpen this season, and he's fine doing either job. He's just as confident that his team is going to surprise the doubters this year. Plus, there's a new manager and pitching coach in Cincinnati to impress.

But the lefty's biggest delivery of the day came during his lunch break, 30 miles east of the club's complex and nowhere near a mound. The pitch was perfect.

"This is it, guys. You are very fortunate. Take in this experience," Garrett said to the 60 participants at this year's Dream Series. "Remember what this looks like, what this smells like, and how this feels. You might be at a Spring Training clubhouse now, but this is the big leagues, and let me tell you this, there is nothing better than being in the Major Leagues and being a Major League player."

The Dream Series, which runs in connection with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is designed to develop pitchers and catchers for a future in baseball and diversify the future talent pool. The event continues through Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Angels.

In addition to on-field training with former Major League players, the camp includes daily presentations from people like Garrett, former Major Leaguers, scouts, college administrators and MLB umpires. The event also features information on baseball career opportunities at the collegiate and professional level.

"I think any time you can connect the dots and have kids identify with guys close to their age, instead of me, who is 100 years old, and that's a good thing," said former MLB manager Jerry Manuel, who is serving as an instructor. "Here is somebody who's their age and saying, 'Hey, this is a good sport to be in, it's cool, there's longevity.' It's just rewarding that you have these types of guys that want to speak baseball life into guys that think they have a chance to play."

Garrett shared the ups and downs that came with his unusual path to the big leagues during his 30-minute chat. He elaborated on the experience of being a two-sport star -- baseball and basketball -- in high school and the responsibility that comes with being an elite athlete at an early age. But most of all, he implored the teens to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them.

"I didn't really have this when I was younger playing baseball, but I just feel like it's a good thing for kids," Garrett said. "They get to be out here playing baseball, and they get to know the game from a lot of guys that played it at the highest level for many years. It's a good thing. They just have to take that knowledge and run with it."

Video: Amir Garrett is optimistic for Reds in 2019

The first day of workouts began with high-tech assessments through Prospect Development Pipeline screenings. A few hours later, the pitchers threw bullpens, practiced pickoffs and participated in fielding drills. The groups of catchers worked on defensive drills and conditioning.

"Being around big leaguers, I think it's really fun and very helpful," said right-handed pitcher Evan Adolphus, a senior who has committed to Cal State Fullerton. "You get to pick their brain on certain things. If we have issues on certain pitches and certain mechanics, they can fix that, when it's not the same as high school coaches teaching it."

Garrett spoke during the lunch hour. The teens wrapped up the first day by hitting in the cages and on the main field.

"We had a great first day and there was a lot of good things we saw," said Del Matthews, MLB's senior director for baseball development. "To have [Garrett] here, someone that's been a pitcher in the big leagues for a couple of years now and someone that's doing it, it makes it all that more special. It's about sharing information and best practices and motivation and inspiration -- all in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., MLK weekend. That's what it's about. It's about fulfilling the dream."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Cincinnati Reds, Amir Garrett