TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former big league manager Jerry Manuel walked to the podium from the back of the crowded conference hall at the team hotel, grabbed the microphone and smiled at this year's class of Dream Series participants."Cool. Cool. Cool," Manuel said. "Are we ready? I think we are ready.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former big league manager Jerry Manuel walked to the podium from the back of the crowded conference hall at the team hotel, grabbed the microphone and smiled at this year's class of Dream Series participants.
"Cool. Cool. Cool," Manuel said. "Are we ready? I think we are ready. Cool. Cool. Let's go."
• Youth pitchers, catchers live the 'Dream'
And while some of the teenage participants didn't know the famous baseball man who was about to address them during Thursday's hour-long welcome dinner, they paid attention. Manuel, the head instructor this week, spoke from the heart and quickly won them over by talking about character first and baseball second.
Everybody knows who Jerry is and what he stands for now.
"If you don't have the character, it's difficult to survive -- because this is a game of failure," Manuel said. "You'll never really find your gift unless there's character involved, and integrity and all those things. Now, your gift is there for you, but you can destroy it with one tweet, with one word in today's life. So that's kind of the message that I'm hoping to give out, and introduce them to why they call this the Dream Series -- with Martin Luther King [Jr.] and what this holiday means to some of us who have gone through it."
The Dream Series, an initiative from Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that features a diverse group of some of the nation's top high school pitching and catching prospects, began workouts on Friday and continues through Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Angels. The series -- which is connected to Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- features on-hand coaching from former players, presentations on baseball-career opportunities on the professional and collegiate levels, and athletic assessments through the Prospect Development Pipeline Premier Events.
Joining Manuel in the Dream Series are sons, Anthony -- a Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) regional coordinator for MLB and coach during the event -- and Jerry Lorenzo, a renowned fashion designer, who made an appearance on Saturday.
"To be able to empower these young men's lives at this point in their careers and to be part of something that's [as] historic as this is an honor," Anthony said. "The great part is the kids are starting to understand who they are working with and they are open, they are turning into sponges and receiving the information. The goal is it's going make a change in history, and we are on that track."
Anthony was drafted by the Mets in 2005 and played five years of pro ball before he retired to spend more time with his family in Sacramento, Calif. He's on the board of the Jerry Manuel Foundation, an organization that helps the under-served get travel-ball experience, and is the head of baseball operations at the Alpha Charter High School in Sacramento County.
"I currently run that school -- or the program, if you will -- and it's an everyday thing," Anthony said. "We are working every single day on the field, along with in the classroom. We are just trying to develop young men and doing what we are supposed to do."
Jerry Lorenzo was responsible for the 'Fear of God' PLAY BALL-themed T-shirts and hats during the 2017 MLB All-Star Game in Miami and the World Series PLAY BALL event in Houston. He worked in the Dodgers' front office after college and later for a sports agency before making a name for himself in the fashion world.
"I pull from a lot of the references and the inspirations and the emotional connections I grew up with in the game," said Jerry Lorenzo. "It's drawing from Delino DeShields and the swag he brought to the game. It's guys like Darryl Strawberry and some of the guys I grew up looking up to."
The Manuels fashion themselves as a baseball family. They would not have it any other way.
"I've been in baseball since 1972, a lifetime, and I'm very satisfied and happy with the fact that I chose it," said the elder Manuel. "And I have to applaud Major League Baseball to trust us with making a dent, and making some inroads into kids' lives and lives of people [who] want to make the game what our culture or any culture considers cool."
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.