Stars tee it up for Compton's Youth Academy

November 15th, 2022

NEWPORT COAST, Calif. -- The baseball stars were out at Pelican Hill Golf Club on Monday, as several current and former Major Leaguers participated in the annual Celebrity Golf Invitational to benefit the MLB Youth Academy in Compton.

Former Angels teammates Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr. hosted the event, along with MLB’s chief development officer Tony Reagins and MLB vice president of youth and facility development Darrell Miller. The proceeds go directly to the Youth Academy in Compton, which serves children throughout the greater Los Angeles area, particularly those from underserved communities, offering baseball and softball instruction as well as resources to aid off-the-field development.

Recently retired superstar Albert Pujols participated in the event, as well as current Major Leaguers Dominic Smith, Vince Velasquez and Taijuan Walker. Several former players and coaches also participated, including former Angels manager Mike Scioscia, former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, former White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel as well as Gary Matthews Sr., Mickey Hatcher, Dan Haren, Dmitri Young, Darren Oliver, Royce Clayton, Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston Jr., Rudy Law, Ken Landreaux, Jacque Jones, Bob Boone, Bret Boone, Clyde Wright, Derrek Lee, Brady Anderson, Jim Abbott, Mike Harkey, Mark Gubicza, Kevin Flora, Vince Coleman, Ruppert Jones and Garry Templeton.

“It’s something we do annually, and the proceeds go directly to the Compton Youth Academy,” Reagins said. “We do a program called 'science of baseball' in the summer, and this really funds this program. It's a program that teaches STEM and baseball, and it's been a really popular program that sells out. These funds primarily support that. So for Gary and Torii to support this and put their name on year after year, it's really important. And to get the support from the Angels and Dodgers is awesome. We want these kids to have an opportunity to be the best they can be."

Hunter said it’s important to give back to the community and that he’s long supported the MLB Youth Academies that MLB has created across the country, starting with Compton's in 2006.

“As a kid from the inner city myself, there were no opportunities like that where you could go to a place that has bats and gloves and meals and get instruction,” Hunter said. “I had to wing it and figure out how to do things on my own. But now they have these academies where they have the equipment and are affiliated with MLB. Now we’re able to give these opportunities and it also helps them get to college and get degrees.”

Matthews Jr., who grew up locally in Granada Hills, said he’s been involved with the Academy since he signed with the Angels in 2007 and that the golf tournament was another success.

“Being a second-generation player and learning this game from my father and how much this game has given us together, the ability to give back gives me a lot of joy,” Matthews Jr. said. "My dad and I talk a lot about creating diversity within the game and creating opportunities for young women and young boys to find their own space within this game. This goes to the flagship Academy, but really the goal is about growing this game globally."

Smith and Velasquez are alumni of the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, as well as big leaguers such as J.P. Crawford, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Higashioka, Dillon Tate, Hunter Greene and Khris Davis. Smith said he first started utilizing the facility when he was 12 years old and he believes it was instrumental in helping him reach the Majors.

“I feel like the Youth Academy is actually one of the reasons I’m in the position I’m in and that I was able to make it to the big leagues,” Smith said. “They helped me with everything from life skills to baseball skills. They took me to China and to Australia and all over the world. It opened doors to different levels of baseball and put me in front of scouts. Without the Academy, I don’t know that I would be in the big leagues.”

MLB has Youth Academies in Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., while also partnering with Curtis Granderson’s academy in Chicago and with the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School in Gurabo. The academies provide more than baseball resources for the children, as they are also geared toward the classroom and teaching life lessons.

“The real separation we’re finding is a digital divide where many of the inner city kids we serve don’t have a computer at home and so we want to break down those barriers,” Miller said. “We want to have space for our young women and men to be able to do their homework at home.”