KANSAS CITY -- The MLB Breakthrough Series comes to Kansas City for the first time this weekend, but the program has been serving underserved ballplayers nationally for a long time.The series, in its 11th year, is a combined effort from Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that aims to provide
KANSAS CITY -- The MLB Breakthrough Series comes to Kansas City for the first time this weekend, but the program has been serving underserved ballplayers nationally for a long time.
The series, in its 11th year, is a combined effort from Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that aims to provide instruction, mentorship and exposure for both baseball and softball players that aren't afforded the opportunity to receive it because of socioeconomic barriers.
Jerry Manuel, head of instruction, sees the series as a way to make a lasting impact on both a player's game, and also how he is perceived.
"The central goal of the event is to take the 'raw' tag off the African-American player, or the underserved that doesn't get a chance to play travel ball," said Manuel, a five-year Major Leaguer and nine-year big league manager in his own right.
Players are recommended by scouts, former players and local academies and development programs before being evaluated by the Breakthrough team. The program seeks out players that are not only the most talented, but also the most in need of its assistance.
In total, approximately 60 high school baseball players from 21 states will compete at the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy in the 18th and Vine District downtown. They'll not only receive instruction from an array of experienced players and coaches, including former All-Stars Tom "Flash" Gordon and Marquis Grissom, but they'll get what may be their first chance at exposure in front of professional and college scouts.
The event is in Kansas City and at the new Urban Youth Academy for the first time, but it may not be the last, thanks to the cooperation of the facility's sponsor.
"We're gonna take a trip over to Kauffman Stadium later this week," said Del Matthews, senior director of baseball development. "The Royals have been a great host and great partner, and we're excited about working with them in the future."
While every series alum leaves the program having gained valuable experience, several have capitalized on it to develop successful careers. Multiple players that graduated from the program were chosen in the 2018 MLB Draft, including No. 53 overall pick Osiris Johnson, who was chosen by the Marlins.
"I don't want to say we claim those guys, but we have touched those guys," Manuel said. "We can't claim them because we're only here for four days, but we have touched those guys."
The four-day event will provide time to work with one-on-one and be assessed by the coaches and play in showcase-style exhibitions in front of scouts and recruiters. The experience is not all on the field, however, as the group will also learn from guest speakers and take a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum just down the road.
The series has three stops throughout the summer: Kansas City, Compton, Calif., and Bradenton, Fla. A select number of prospects from each group will be invited back to the week-long Elite Development Invitational in Vero Beach, Fla., later in the summer. The softball series took place at the end of May in Compton.
Jordan Wolf is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.