TEMPE, Ariz. -- It takes only a few minutes for former Major League infielder Ernest "Junior" Spivey to find his young son on the field at this week's Dream Series at Tempe Diablo Stadium.If the teen is not throwing in a bullpen session, he's either hitting in a cage or
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It takes only a few minutes for former Major League infielder Ernest "Junior" Spivey to find his young son on the field at this week's Dream Series at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
If the teen is not throwing in a bullpen session, he's either hitting in a cage or on the main field with fellow campers. Ernest "Tre" Spivey III could be sprinting in the outfield or in pitchers' fielding practice. And if for some reason, is out of sight, his father knows he's in good hands.
The Dream Series is about baseball, diversifying the talent pool and making the great game even better, but it's also about brotherhood and family. It's about making memories and honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"Tre is my only real son here, but I see the rest of the boys as family, too," said Spivey, who is one of several instructors with big league experience at the five-day camp. "Some of these kids have been in this program for a long time, and I have had the chance to see them grow. Without this program, some of these kids would never have this opportunity and they wouldn't actually fall in love with the game of baseball, fall in love with everyone that's here and make friends for life."
Last year, former Major Leaguer Marquis Grissom and Marquis Grissom Jr. participated in the Dream Series, and Grissom Jr. is back again. Also, in this year's class is Andre Duplantier, the cousin of D-backs prospect Jon Duplantier. Del Matthews, MLB's senior director for baseball development, is a member of the accomplished Matthews family that includes former Major League players Gary "Sarge" Matthews and Gary Matthews Jr.
"We've had a number of second-generation, third-generation kids coming through our programs. I was one myself, so I'm a little partial to it because I understand what it's like to grow up in the clubhouse," Del Matthews said. "They really just want to be themselves. They love the game, there's a passion for the game, I think. But they have dreams themselves that they're hoping to fulfill. It's great to see them coming into their own."
Tre Spivey is in the eighth grade in nearby Chandler, Ariz., and at 13, he's among the youngest participants in the Dream Series. He's a multisport star athlete at his school, which means pitching is not his sole focus and as a result is still learning about the finer points of being on the mound. He was born in 2005, the same year his father appeared in the big leagues for the final time, but he still grew up with the game. And while there are advantages that come with being the son of a former Major League player, it does come with a unique set of challenges.
"Sometimes, the expectations are a little higher and there can be pressure," Junior Spivey said. "You just have to take it with a grain of salt, do the best that you can do, be the best that you can be and not listen to all the outside noise that's going to come your way. It can be a little harder for the kids that have fathers that play."
Spivey played parts of five seasons with the D-backs, Brewers and Nationals. He played in the Minors with the Cardinals in 2006 and the Red Sox in '07, and he eventually retired after a couple of stints in independent ball. He began coaching his son soon after his professional career ended.
"I get to basically breathe into these kids all my experiences and all my knowledge and how to get through certain obstacles you're going to face throughout this upcoming season and through their careers," Spivey said. "I'm just blessed to be a part of it."
The Dream Series, which started Thursday with a welcome dinner, continues through Monday with more training for the pitchers and catchers. The camp also includes daily presentations and information on baseball career opportunities at the collegiate and professional level.
"These are young men here maturing into adulthood and this is a pivotal time in their lives," Matthews said. "To be able to see them with their dads, come into their own game, that whole development process is really special. Hopefully we'll be looking down here six, seven years from now and they'll be in the big leagues or pitching in the College World Series."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.