VERO BEACH, Fla -- It's never too early to dream big, especially when those dreams take you to the Major Leagues.That's the consensus from the more than 120 baseball players from all over the country with diverse backgrounds, ages 13-14, who arrived in Vero Beach, Fla., for week two of
VERO BEACH, Fla -- It's never too early to dream big, especially when those dreams take you to the Major Leagues.
That's the consensus from the more than 120 baseball players from all over the country with diverse backgrounds, ages 13-14, who arrived in Vero Beach, Fla., for week two of the 2018 Elite Development Invitational at historic Dodgertown.
And with EDI instructors that include nearly two dozen former Major Leaguers like Eric Davis, Marquis Grissom, Tom Gordon, Willie Randolph, Reggie Smith and more, dreams become almost real enough to touch.
"I'm trying to make it to the pros. I'm trying to make it all the way," said outfielder Cooper Athey, a 5-11, 160-pounder who will be entering his freshman year of high school back home in New Jersey.
Athey said his experience so far has been invaluable: "You get a lot of instruction from former MLB players."
The EDI, in its fourth season, is operated by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball in partnership with the Major League Baseball Players Association. It features players from 17 states and Washington D.C.
Each one-week program is geared toward providing elite training and instruction opportunities from former players and coaches, like Jerry Manuel.
Athey is among the players selected for each week by a combination of the following groups: the MLB Youth Academy network, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, USA Baseball, the Buck O'Neil Scouts Association, MLB Scouts and individual active and former players.
Many players were also participants of previous Breakthrough Series Development camps hosted by MLB & USA Baseball. The event is made possible through joint funding by MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball.
Week one of EDI Baseball, featuring players ages 15-18, recently wrapped up. But not much changes when the younger players take over.
"There's a little difference in the level of talent, said Kindu Jones, EDI's senior coordinator for baseball development, "nonetheless, instruction, development, that's what we're preaching. That's what we're focusing on.
"The older group is a little more polished. The younger group is pretty much soaking this all up. It's an opportunity for them to learn the game at the most fundamental areas, so they're soaking that up."
For outfielder Dillon Head, an eighth-grader from Chicago, it's been an eye-opening experience so far.
"It's been really fun, way different experience than anything back home," Head said. "I knew that there would be real good outfield coaches here. I knew they were going to help me excel on my outfield drills and skills.
"It's like the top of the top coaching. They get more thorough with how to teach you to do things. They treat us like big leaguers."
Head's goal: "Be better than everybody. When you compete against other people you want to be the best and work hard at your craft. I want to go to the big leagues and take care of my family."
That's not a far-fetched dream, as the last two Drafts illustrate. There are approximately 195 EDI alumni who graduated high school in 2017 and '18. More than half of that group is either playing in the Minors or collegiately.
Eight former EDI players were selected in the 2017 Draft, including first-rounder Hunter Greene (Cincinnati), and 12 more were picked this year.
"It's been remarkable seeing how far we've come in four years," Jones said. "Lots of guys we're seeing multiple years, which is our goal, because it kind of gives us a gauge on what we're doing from the developmental standpoint. And so now, guys are starting to get drafted.
"When guys are getting that invitation, they're utilizing this event to kind of spearhead themselves to hopefully get that call to get drafted. To see double-digit names getting drafted this past June was an eye-opener for us. It's kind of letting us know that while they do have multiple events that they do cross in a year, coming down here and getting the work done and ultimately get called in the draft, we're starting to see positive things from doing this event."
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com.