Simeon Woods Richardson was on the other side of this seminar not too long ago. He was getting tips from young Major Leaguers and Minor Leaguers whose ranks he aspired to soon join. (Marcus Stroman, a fellow fast-working right-hander, was who he looked up to most.) He was in high school, spry and ready “to blow these doors off,” as he put it.
In stepped the DREAM Series.
Woods Richardson, the Blue Jays’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, took part in a panel with three fellow Minor Leaguers -- the Angels’ Kyren Paris, the Braves’ Michael Harris and the Marlins’ Nasim Nunez -- that was moderated by Bobby Scales, the Pirates’ Minor League field coordinator, in a reunion of sorts. The quartet was paying forward the lessons -- both surrounding baseball and life -- that they soaked up from their time in the DREAM Series program.
“Just how to carry yourself,” said Nunez, a shortstop who was the Marlins’ second-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft and is their No. 20 prospect. “That was one of the big things … knowing how to communicate and ask questions.
“Asking questions was a big thing for the DREAM Series, that I believe the questions we were asking y’all,” Nunez continued, alluding to those in the program before him, “and the responses you were giving us were real and honest in preparing us for this, where we are now.”
The DREAM Series is a showcase focused on the dynamics of baseball for a diverse group of elite high school athletes. The event, which features predominantly Black players from across the country, is held during Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend each year.
This year, the DREAM Series was held virtually in the form of webinars that brought together young people who would normally be playing in the tournament, with Major League and Minor League players and managers, past and present. The DREAM Series, which was established in 2017, is operated by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball.
This year’s program featured All-Stars, a reigning Rookie of the Year, Managers of the Year and World Series champions. But this young crop of prospects serves as the most recent success stories of the DREAM Series, ones who used their adopted knowledge to navigate through a trying year filled with home workouts and alternate training sites.
Whether it was through organized sessions or the chatter around the batting cages and bullpen, these four DREAM Series products credit open conversations with coaches and staff members as what prepared them to adapt for their lives now: long bus rides, moving across levels, uncertainty heading into last season and the next and preparing their craft for when the chance comes to make it to The Show.
“I remember times where we would sit down, whether it was after dinner or before dinner, for a few hours and just talk, sitting in a circle and just talking about different experiences,” said Paris, a shortstop and the Angels' No. 5 prospect. “… I feel like that’s huge.”
“It was a family bond,” Nunez said, greeted by nods from the rest of the panel. “You didn’t really look at them as a coach, you looked at them as sometimes a big brother, really.”
The discussion also touched on the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May, and how it either continued conversations already being had with teammates or kick-started some with others who hadn’t yet discussed race and racial injustice.
“Just having a conversation, even if it’s not comfortable, just willing to have a conversation and ask questions with teammates,” said Woods Richardson, who attended protests in his Houston hometown over the summer and was sporting a Players Alliance T-shirt on the call.
“The discussions really helped a lot, as far as everyone getting on the same page,” Paris added. “And two, seeing other athletes on TV that we look up to speaking up, I feel like it created a lot of unity out of something that was pretty horrific. But at the end of the day, I feel we handled it well and we came out a little bit stronger than we were before.”
The DREAM Series can get the best out of each participant, the panel agreed, doing important work in inspiring and mentoring the next generation. While it takes an innate drive within themselves, it’s what can give them the keys to find success at every level they reach. For these four, that’s abundantly clear.
“My first year wasn’t really hard. It was more of a breeze,” said Harris, an outfielder and the Braves' No. 12 prospect, “because of DREAM Series.”