KANSAS CITY -- For several participants in this year's Breakthrough Series in Kansas City, the experience is not something new. But while they may have been through the program in the past, one thing makes this year more important: ties to last week's Major League Baseball Draft.Of the 60 Breakthrough
KANSAS CITY -- For several participants in this year's Breakthrough Series in Kansas City, the experience is not something new. But while they may have been through the program in the past, one thing makes this year more important: ties to last week's Major League Baseball Draft.
Of the 60 Breakthrough Series players in Kansas City, 15 have participated in previous developmental programs sponsored by MLB and USA Baseball, which are making an effort to advance the skills of players from underserved communities nationwide. In addition to the annual iterations of the Breakthrough Series, players may also take part in the Dream Series and Elite Development Invitational events.
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These programs offer the players not only an opportunity to polish their skills, but also a potential path to the pros through exposure to scouts. In this year's Draft, 25 Breakthrough Series alumni were selected, something that encourages this year's crop of prospects.
"It's just good to know I was working with those guys last year, same event," said Isaac Nunez, a shortstop from Altamonte Springs, Fla. "For them to come out and make a name for themselves, it sets me up for my future, too."
For the players, watching the same guys they were on the field with last year is a reminder that their dreams are achievable. They're not taking that for granted.
"It means a lot," said Trey Faltine, a shortstop and pitcher from Richmond, Texas. "It shows that there are scouts in here watching us, and that being here gives you the opportunity to fulfill your dreams and have that chance to be a professional baseball player one day."
It's not just the exposure that makes a difference, though. Several guests will speak to the group, including Royals legend and Hall of Famer George Brett, who spoke about the importance of mental preparation as a player every day. Alcides Escobar of the Royals and Billy Hamilton of the Reds will speak on Tuesday.
The players also received top-notch instruction from an experienced cast of coaches, who helped with their mechanics, provided insight about the game and taught strategies and form.
Tom Gordon, Marquis Grissom and LaTroy Hawkins highlight the event's leadership staff, which is piloted by former Major League infielder and manager Jerry Manuel. In all, the 17 instructors combined for 10 All-Star selections and more than 150 years of big league experience, something that doesn't go unnoticed.
"All these coaches have been where we all want to get to," said Nasim Nunez, a shortstop from Lawrenceville, Ga.
Simply being here isn't good enough, though, and the players know that. Those Breakthrough alumni who made it to the professional level last year had to compete with thousands of others across the country.
After all, they are in Kansas City for only four days. If you ask them, it's the work done in the other 361 days that truly makes the difference.
"People are talented that come out of here," said Chase Davis, an outfielder from Elk Grove, Calif. "It just gives me a shot and makes me realize that I could keep doing the same thing as long as I keep working hard and getting after it every day."
Jordan Wolf is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.