CHICAGO -- Bo knows it's important for Major League Baseball to reach out to youth everywhere.That's why the man former White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel called "the greatest athlete we've ever seen" spoke to 60 high school baseball players at the Breakthrough Series at Curtis Granderson Field at
CHICAGO -- Bo knows it's important for Major League Baseball to reach out to youth everywhere.
That's why the man former White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel called "the greatest athlete we've ever seen" spoke to 60 high school baseball players at the Breakthrough Series at Curtis Granderson Field at the University of Illinois-Chicago on Thursday.
The series -- founded in 2008 in a joint effort between Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and USA Baseball -- seeks to develop players on and off the field through seminars, mentorships, and gameplaying, among other avenues. It invites youth who might not otherwise have the chance to showcase their talent for scouts and coaches, while receiving instruction from former big leaguers.
Jackson, a former MLB All-Star in addition to winning the Heisman Trophy and earning NFL Pro Bowl honors in his career, was just the latest in a star-studded group looking to provide a voice.
"Everyone needs to experience this game from a playing or spectator standpoint," Jackson said. "I don't see anywhere else that's seeking out this group of people. When they're here for this, their minds are like, 'Wow, baseball is special.' We at least, as former ballplayers, should help out if baseball is reaching out to places it hasn't been. Everybody should be looking to diversify the sport."
Jackson's speech came on the second day of a three-day series, working players through a series of drills and showcase games. The series wraps up Friday with a pair of games before participants attend a Chicago White Sox game and meet with vice president Ken Williams.
Jackson spoke with 60 high school players ranging from 18 different states, including 11 locals from Chicago. The former White Sox outfielder offered a message about what it takes to be successful as a pro athlete.
"We're going to give you the tools and the ingredients, but it's on you guys to make the cake," Jackson said in a five-minute speech in between a pair of showcase games. "For you to be here, you obviously had to have done something special. Take what you're doing very seriously."
Jackson -- who is among the few who have thrived in multiple professional sports -- said an increasing talent pool would make multisport athletes even more of a rarity, but he told the next crop of talent not limit themselves. That rings especially true with a coaching crew that will include Ken Griffey Jr., along with Jackson, Manuel and former big leaguers Dave Winfield and Marquis Grissom.
"For some kids, they only have one goal -- make it to the big leagues. We have some of the best ex-Major League Baseball players and instructors. There is no reason for them not to listen to all they have to say. These guys want to give back, and it's nothing but a blessing. I was telling the kids, if you fail, it's not because you didn't receive the right instruction."
"Set your goals high, and climb for them. Don't let anything, anyone, anywhere else determine that."
The Breakthrough Series has been a launching pad for athletes since its 2008 launch, sending nearly 160 alumni to the MLB Draft -- including 16 in the '17 Draft. Others have earned scholarships to top-flight college baseball programs across the country.
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago