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4th annual Dream Series set to educate youngsters

@JesseSanchezMLB
January 16, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Chase Davis has the type of handshake that can dislocate a shoulder and cut off the circulation in the hand of unsuspecting new friends. His grin is magnetic. His energy is infectious. The voice booms. And that’s just Davis' normal demeanor. He was really pumped Thursday night

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Chase Davis has the type of handshake that can dislocate a shoulder and cut off the circulation in the hand of unsuspecting new friends.

His grin is magnetic. His energy is infectious. The voice booms.

And that’s just Davis' normal demeanor. He was really pumped Thursday night at the welcome dinner for the annual Dream Series. The outfield prospect from Elk Grove, Calif., could barely contain his excitement.

“Being here means so much to not only me, but the rest of the guys here,” said Davis, a senior at Franklin High School who is committed to play at the University of Arizona. “To be here on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and to be able to honor his legacy and create a bond is very special.”

The fourth annual 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 pitchers and catchers, continues through Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Angels. The event, which runs in connection with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is focused on developing and diversifying the talent pool in the sport. For the first time in the program’s history, a group of infielders and outfielders will participate in the Dream Series.

“We do it this weekend because of Dr. King and what he went through, and what he was able to accomplish at a young age,” said Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development. “He changed the world, and we are cognizant of that. We make sure we communicate it at a number of different levels, whether we implement it at batting practice or talk about it in meetings, get their input in meetings as to what they think about Dr. King. We try to connect all of that into this entire program.”

In addition to on-hand coaching, the Dream Series will provide presentations on baseball career opportunities on the professional and collegiate levels along with athletic assessments. Special guests include Pirates pitcher Chris Archer, A's assistant general manager Billy Owens and former MiLB infielder/outfielder and current motivational speaker C.J. Beatty. A large number of college recruiters and pro scouts are expected to attend to evaluate players.

“As a staff, we talk about each year that we want the kids to take something back home,” said Del Matthews, MLB's senior director for baseball development. “Whether it’s something we talk about off the field in terms of the young men in their maturation process as they’re turning into men, professional etiquette, the different programs we have that are inspiring them to continue their education in school. We give them different nuggets off the field, but then on the field, we have some of the best instructors in baseball.”

Coaches at this year's Dream Series include former MLB stars Kenny Hill, LaTroy Hawkins, Darren Oliver, Marvin Freeman, Lou Collier, Lenny Webster, Bob Didier, Ty Waller, Garvin Alston, Reggie Williams, Anthony Manuel and Sergio Santos. Braves third-base coach Ron Washington, former Angels manager and MLB player Mike Scioscia and former big league manager Jerry Manuel are also serving as special instructors.

Davis, who ranks No. 64 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Draft Prospects list, highlights a talented roster that also includes right-handed pitcher Markevian Hence (No. 87) and Michael Brown III, a first baseman from California who participated in the High School Home Run Derby during All-Star weekend in Cleveland last summer. Christian Little, who is among the top pitchers for 2021, is also participating.

“Each year, it gets better and better. The talent is improving,” Reagins said. “They’re starting to understand our thinking and the way our staff teaches. We try to implement the passion of the game, the intellect of the game and try to articulate that we care more about them as people -- as individuals -- than we do as ballplayers. When they go back to their communities, that starts to spread.”

The approach is working. Of the estimated 150 players who have participated in the first three Dream Series events, 25 were selected in the 2017-19 MLB Drafts, including highly touted prospects Hunter Greene (Reds' No. 1), Kumar Rocker (Vanderbilt), Simeon Woods Richardson (Blue Jays' No. 6) and Mike Harris (Braves). Countless other participants have also played collegiately.

“African-American kids are playing the game, they love the game, they’re passionate about it,” Matthews said. “The earlier that we can get to them and instill some of the knowledge and nuances of the game that put them in a better position to succeed, I think the better they’ll be. The alumni that have come through this program, we’re proud of what they have accomplished. We hope to have played a small part in that.

"Ultimately, the credit goes to the young men and the hard work that they put in, but we’re really trying to guide them on a path they’re already on and push them to succeed. So whether they show up on campus on Day One or show up in pro ball on Day One, that they’re prepared, comfortable, feel like they belong, thrive and excel in the game they love.”

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.