VERO BEACH, Fla. -- As the 2018 Elite Development Invitational came to a close Wednesday evening, participants said goodbye to a jam-packed week of high-level training and instruction, featuring presentations from the likes of Commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and executive director of the MLB Players Association
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- As the 2018 Elite Development Invitational came to a close Wednesday evening, participants said goodbye to a jam-packed week of high-level training and instruction, featuring presentations from the likes of Commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and executive director of the MLB Players Association Tony Clark.
To Ed Howard, however, the most impactful part of the entire event was interacting with and learning from his peers.
"I love it, I get to see what they do," the 16-year-old shortstop said. "I get to compare myself to them, see what they're good at and maybe what I lack. Then just work and try to get better."
Having 30 former Major Leaguers at your disposal for one week -- to ask questions and hone in on skills on and off the field -- is an incredibly special opportunity, without question. Being in a group of 125 of the best high school ballplayers from around the entire nation, however, is also an experience unlike any other.
In a game where other players are always trying to take your spot, even for these high school-aged prospects, it's refreshing to see competitors working together, helping each other strive to make consistent improvements.
Andre Duplantier, an outgoing 18-year-old from Houston, wasted no time before he introduced himself to others around him, getting to know his fellow participants, picking their brains.
"Take a little bit from them all. 'How do you transfer the ball so fast?' They tell me drills that they do," Duplantier said, explaining an instance from a day out on the field, working on his defense at shortstop. "'What do you do before? How do you get ready? How do you pick the ball up off the bat really well?' That's something that I work on."
Each and every player is one of the best from his hometown. At EDI, these young men had an opportunity to showcase their best attributes while also absorbing that of those around them. This came as a challenge for some, though, as sparking conversations with strangers can be tough for a shy individual. Duplantier was ready to help.
"When they do something, you let them know that it's good," he said, addressing how he interacts with the less sociable players. "'Hey, that's a really good play right there.' As you keep going, you get them to smile a little bit."
The camaraderie among EDI participants stretches beyond just tips on the playing field. The program's veterans actively seek out rookies and take them under their wings, willing and able to impart what they have learned in past years.
Massai Dorsey, who attended the program in 2017, eased the minds of EDI first-years with his sage advice on the mentality necessary to succeed.
"Treat it like a regular thing," Dorsey said, admitting even in his second year he still has gained a wealth of knowledge from the other invitees. "Yeah, it's a partnership with MLB, but you've got to relax and just have fun with it because baseball is just a game. Have fun -- that's what I told them."
Another veteran, Isaac Nunez, who is now finishing his third year with EDI, looked back on the week, pointing out a newfound aptitude for journaling. By scribbling down everything he was able to learn from his co-players, he now can refer to it down the road, maybe even when he's a professional.
"I can have the information that these guys have given me on a piece of paper and I can write whatever I want, I can write as much as I want," Nunez said. "It's definitely something I can see in the future. ... Say, 'hey, when I was 17 years old, when I was at the EDI program talking to these people,' I can look back and say I'm ready."
So as the 2018 EDI participants prepared to head back home Thursday, the program may have come to a close, but the development has only just begun.
Young men set to play against one another, at the collegiate and professional levels, found solace in EDI and were willing to help each other, another reason why this Invitational is one of a kind.
Clark, who spoke with the group Monday, said the brotherhood that has been established over the past week and all the wisdom that has been shared is a sneak peek at the next crop of prospects.
"The kids that are here aren't accidentally here, they are recommended," Clark said. "That means they have been seen and they have been scouted. Just from a talent standpoint, you realize that the kids in the room can play. ... I'm excited for them being able to take one or two things from this week that can help them get that much closer to what their goal is."
Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Goodman97.