PEARL, Miss. -- Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss., was the fifth and most recent stop on Major League Baseball's ID Tour on Saturday.
The tour is a series of events where young ballplayers -- specifically African American and Latin American -- perform in a series of workouts in front of MLB-appointed coaches, with a goal of finding the best athletes and invite them to future showcase baseball development programs. Those events include the Breakthrough Series, DREAM Series and the Hank Aaron Invitational.
Kindu Jones, MLB's senior coordinator of baseball development, was on-site in Pearl, where eighth- and ninth-grade ballplayers participated in the event.
“We travel to 12 cities in six weeks, and it's an opportunity for us to go into areas that are not as exposed as others,” Jones said. “We try to provide a level of workouts to identify players for development opportunities within our department. This is our fifth stop of 12, and we're just trying to find diamonds in the rough.”
The ID Tour is a coast-to-coast affair. It has already made stops in Sacramento, Oakland, Dallas, and Houston. Upcoming locations include Montgomery, Ala., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Washington D.C., Lehigh Valley, Penn., Staten Island, N.Y. and the Bronx, N.Y.
The tour first started in 2019, but this is the first time that it is making a stop in the Magnolia State. Over 40 youngsters attended the Pearl event, giving it one of the highest turnouts so far. Jones was happy with the attendance, and he wants to see the tour continue to make appearances in the state.
“We were pretty excited when we saw the numbers that signed up and then very excited when we saw the turnout,” he said. “It lets us know that we have to keep coming back and keep building a level of sustainability within Mississippi and keep impacting the community that way.”
The athletes ran through a series of warmup drills before splitting into infield- and outfield-specific drills. Pitchers did some bullpen work and before the event ended, every player had an opportunity to take some batting practice.
Cameron Scott was also one of the talent evaluators at the event. He has been with MLB for three years, and it was clear that the Mississippi talent impressed him.
“This was one of the most enthusiastic turnouts we've had this year,” he said. “The kids were great. They had high energy. They had a lot of talent on the bases, in the field, and with the bats. And even better, they were high-character kids all around.”
Landyn Baker, an eighth grader from Clinton Junior High School in Clinton, Miss., was one of the athletes in attendance. His experience was a positive one, and he learned a lot from it.
“It's been a good experience,” Baker said. “I've learned about getting out of my own head and playing the game the right way.”
Deuce Jenkins is a seventh grader from Northwest Rankin Junior High School in Flowood, Miss. He agreed with Baker's assessment.
“The experience has been great,” Jenkins said. “We have great coaches, great players, and an all-around great group.”
As for the coaches, they know they have a unique chance to help provide opportunities for young members of minority groups in the baseball world. Carlos Suarez -- who has been a part of the tour since 2019 -- was one of the coaches at the event, and he was cognizant of this responsibility.
“This opportunity means everything,” he said. “It's the reason why we're here. We [members of minority groups] haven't always gotten these opportunities in the past. To come out here and do what we do is special. It's important for the community, it's important for everybody and it's important for the game.”
Scott agreed with him.
“For me, this is an opportunity to pay it forward,” he said. “There's a lot of opportunities that people gave me as an inner-city kid in New York that we as a staff are now able to give back to these kids.”
Who knows? Maybe the next Billy Hamilton or Jarrod Dyson will come from this group of youngsters in Pearl.