CHICAGO -- When at the Breakthrough Series, you can look out past the batter's eye at Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium and see Willis Tower dominating the skyline.To the 60 high school players, however, they see a way out of the inner cities through the game of baseball.
CHICAGO -- When at the Breakthrough Series, you can look out past the batter's eye at Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium and see Willis Tower dominating the skyline.
To the 60 high school players, however, they see a way out of the inner cities through the game of baseball. The three-day series, which launched in 2008 and made its first trip to the city of Chicago, wrapped up Friday with a pair of showcase games before giving the kids the chance to attend a Major League Baseball game.
For Khyle Radcliffe, a rising Morgan Park High School junior outfielder who is one of 11 kids participating in the event from the host city of Chicago, it's an opportunity he doesn't take for granted.
"I don't think it can get any bigger than this, really," Radcliffe said. "It's a lot of fun. I don't think scouts usually go to the inner cities to get people."
This year's Breakthrough Series has had a distinct Chicago flavor to it. Some of the notable guest speakers have ties to the city, such as former White Sox outfielders Ken Griffey Jr. and Bo Jackson and former White Sox manager Jerry Manuel. Instructors and former big leaguers Marvin Freeman and Lou Collier grew up in the area, and Breakthrough Series director Del Matthews --the son of former big leaguer Gary Matthews Sr. -- attended high school in the Chicago area and worked in the White Sox organization before claiming his current post.
• Baseball is a family tradition for Matthews
"[It's amazing] to have Ken Griffey Jr., who played for the White Sox, come in and reiterate those lessons," Matthews said. "Bo Jackson, Marvin Freeman, [Tom] Flash Gordon -- all these guys that played here in the city of Chicago come to talk to them and give them their perspective about the game. These kids are very grateful for it."
The series, which seeks to diversify the game of baseball through a showcase event, will wrap up Friday evening, as the participants will attend a Chicago White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field and meet longtime club executive Ken Williams.
The Breakthrough Series gives opportunities for kids with a passion for the game of baseball to overcome financial barriers and be seen. Radcliffe has always had a passion for baseball -- his great-uncle was Negro Leagues star Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, while his father, Ernest, and older brother, Kendall, played in the Minors -- and now will have the chance to have the spotlight himself.
Rising Kenwood Academy High School senior outfielder Jaylen Patterson grew up on baseball fields, falling in love with the way his uncle, Lonnie, played the game for the independent Joliet Jackhammers. That passion translated to his desire to keep playing the game and in events like the Breakthrough Series.
"It's actually a privilege," Patterson said. "It feels good to be here, to be selected. I feel honored, and I think it's a great opportunity to show off all my skills and pick up different pieces of information from all these guys."
Harlan Community High School rising junior Henry Perry has been playing the game for as long as he could remember, but he didn't fully realize there was a future in the sport until he began with the White Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) program at the age of 15. Now, he's hoping the game can help him with his future.
"Ever since I started with the White Sox [ACE program], it's been huge," Perry said. "Before I got with them, I didn't even know about scholarships or getting scouted playing baseball. [Baseball] gives us chances to succeed in life."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.