DALLAS -- There’s something about the topic of opportunity that makes Juan Gárciga’s eyes widen a little -- not an opportunity for himself, but for the athletes he trains each day at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy.
Talent can be found anywhere across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex -- natives Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard are a couple names that come to mind -- but in an area with a population of over 6.5 million, sometimes talent can slip through the cracks.
That’s where MLB’s ID Tour comes into play. On Saturday, the tour made a stop in Dallas at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy where over 60 eighth- and ninth-grade athletes showcased their skills through pitching, fielding, hitting and baserunning workouts.
The tour aims to identify underexposed baseball talent, particularly Black and Latino athletes, with the goal of inviting the top performers to future baseball development programs like the Breakthrough Series, DREAM Series or Hank Aaron Invitational.
“This tour is so unique because what can come of it, if you're selected to go into that next level, is potentially life-changing,” said Gárciga, the academy’s senior director. “In my experience, almost every kid who goes on to the Breakthrough Series or the Hank Aaron Invitational will play college baseball.”
With its focus on providing a level playing field to underserved communities, the ID Tour eliminates a frequent X factor: money. These athletes are receiving quality, cost-free instruction and evaluation they might normally have to pay for.
“Just thinking about the impact that that has, not just on the players on the field, but on that stress, that relief for the parents. …” Gárciga said. “They're still giving their kids what we consider to be the best without having to make unbelievable sacrifices behind the scenes.”
Dallas was the third stop on this year’s 12-city tour. The event moved south on Sunday, to Houston, where a similar session was held at the Astros MLB Youth Academy.
Former MLB pitcher Pat Mahomes was in attendance for the one-day event in Dallas and spent his time near the bullpen observing the young pitchers and helping fine-tune their mechanics.
“It was amazing,” 14-year-old Savion Sims said. “He told me to stay relaxed and he taught me some stuff on my slider.”
Del Matthews, vice president of baseball development, coordinator Cameron Scott and senior coordinator Kindu Jones have each played a part in helping grow the tour over the past few years and hope to expand it to even more cities in the future.
Matthews said Texas being known for its baseball prowess -- and the fact that it houses two MLB Youth Academies -- helped them decide to make two stops in the Lone Star State this year.
Previously, Matthew said recommendations from coaches and scouts are, for the most part, how they found talent. Now, with the ID Tour, they’re able to meet these athletes in person and get a chance to interact with them and their families.
“I think it gives us a chance to change baseball,” Scott added. “It gives a voice to players that for a long time have been, I wouldn’t say marginalized, but just haven’t had the opportunity to get in the game.”