COMPTON, Calif. -- Eric Davis is candidly responding to a reporter's questions while seated at the edge of a row of stands inside Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.Still talking, Davis' focus fixates on the batter's box.As a camper lifts a pitch deep into left field, Davis
COMPTON, Calif. -- Eric Davis is candidly responding to a reporter's questions while seated at the edge of a row of stands inside Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.
Still talking, Davis' focus fixates on the batter's box.
As a camper lifts a pitch deep into left field, Davis slightly leans forward and rises, urging the ball out. He then claps in gratitude as it falls for extra bases, although he doesn't fully settle back into the chair.
"It makes it all worth my while," Davis says. "To see a kid be told something and then see it come to fruition. Then see that kid smile -- there's nothing bigger or brighter than that, than seeing you help a kid and the kid actually does something, turns around and smiles, and understands some of the things that you were trying to get them to do."
• Breakthrough Series revisits Compton origins
This year, Davis was once again invited to serve as a coach at MLB's Breakthrough Series hosted at the Compton Urban Youth Academy, where the event took place for the first time 10 years ago. Back then, Compton was the only city in the continental U.S. where MLB had established an academy. Today, there are Urban Youth Academies located in seven other cities. Davis was a part of the Compton academy's inception.
"Any time you can help spearhead something, it gives you gratification when it picks up steam," Davis says. "These guys at the Urban Youth Academy and MLB, and how they've coincided with this thing, it's fabulous."
For Davis, 56, the Compton complex represents more than just an expansion of MLB's hand in growing the game of baseball nationally. A Los Angeles native, he attended John C. Fremont High School, located roughly 10 miles away from where the Compton UYA stands.
Taking part in the local effort presents an opportunity to impact the same area where Davis honed his craft. He considers improving the community and providing better opportunities for younger generations to be an obligation of sorts.
"The more people feel like they have something to offer and want to help," Davis says, "the better our inner cities will be, not just in Compton and Los Angeles, but around the country."
The sentiment comes from a man who played for six teams over his seven-year career during which he received a handful of accolades. Davis was a two-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger. His professional experience, as well as that of other coaches helping out at the event, is something he hopes resonates with campers, even if his guidance doesn't produce immediate results.
With 25 Breakthrough Series alumni selected at the 2018 MLB Draft, Davis believes in the program's effectiveness and wants to see its outreach continue to grow.
"Some of [the players], they might not get it today," Davis says. "It might be tomorrow, it might be five years from now. But the important thing is that we're giving [the instruction]. And the more people that you can give it to, the better chances you have of the message not getting distorted and lost. By us constantly doing this and helping more people, hopefully, it's going to become bigger and better, and we can have more players and get a bigger facility and you'll be sitting here televising it."
Even if the Breakthrough Series were to experience such success in the future, Davis seems to prefer his vantage point and, perhaps more importantly, the direct influence he has on the next waves of baseball players.
His genuine desire to see them succeed is once again noticeable as another batter steps into the batter's box. As another player connects on a hit, Davis briefly turns, then says, "Seeing the smile on their faces makes it all worthwhile."
Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.