Breakthrough Series holds workout at Rickwood

MLB Develops program also visits Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

July 3rd, 2024

Last week, players from the MLB Develops Breakthrough Series visited the historic Rickwood Field and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to learn more about the history and significance of the people and players who paved the way for them.

The visit occurred less than two weeks after history was made when the Giants and Cardinals played at Rickwood, marking the first regular-season game played at the oldest ballpark in the country.

The trip to Birmingham provided a unique opportunity for the Breakthrough Series team, which was in the midst of participating in “The Program,” a baseball development initiative that provides athletes with development drills and activities each week from mid-June through mid-July. It is designed to prepare them for premier 16U tournaments on weekends against some of the top travel programs from around the country.

The coaching staff is composed of several former Major Leaguers who have participated as instructors for different MLB/USA Baseball development programs.

Senior coordinator of baseball development Kindu Jones spoke about why it was important for the players to experience both the workout at Rickwood and the tour of the institute.

Participants of The Program's Perfect Game 16u Elite Tournament work out at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala. (Photo by Parker Freedman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

“We found this to be impactful for the guys,” he said. “It's teaching them history, educating them about some of the things they may read about in school, but to be up close and in person, it’s really impactful.”

Anthony Murphy, an outfielder from the class of 2026, found the trip to the institute to be very educational and fulfilling for him and his teammates.

“My experience at the Birmingham Civil Rights museum was a very exciting and very cool experience to be with my teammates, who are all of the same color and have the same experience like me, and just to see a very historic museum and see all the people that have built what we do nowadays,” Murphy said.

After touring the museum, the team held a workout at Rickwood Field. Tony Reagins, MLB’s chief baseball development officer, expressed how exciting an opportunity this is for the players, and he is looking forward to giving young people more opportunities such as this one.

“These players in the program get a chance to see Rickwood revitalized, and I think it’s an exciting time for them to look back nine years and see all of the opportunities, you know, it makes you smile and you look forward to doing more, and just giving young people opportunities,” he said.

Many of the Breakthrough Series players were excited and in awe to be at the historic ballpark.

“Thinking about all the history that has been made here and all the great players that have played here -- not only in MLB, but in the Negro Leagues as well -- it gives me great motivation,” said class of 2026 shortstop Rookie Shepard. “Just to think about how many great players were able to play here and you being able to walk in the footsteps, it feels amazing.”

Rookie Shepard fields a ground ball at Rickwood (Photo by Parker Freedman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Kaleb Traylor, a class of 2026 first baseman has been to Rickwood before and now, since coming back for the second time, he hopes MLB can continue its support of The Program and in advocating to get more African Americans and minorities playing the sport of baseball.

“It’s definitely a crazy experience coming back for the second time and taking it all in, but for the new guys and the younger guys … coming for the first time, it’s just a great experience for them and being able to take all this in,” he said. “... What they’re doing as a program and MLB supporting us, it’s a great opportunity.”