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Game's blossoming diversity evident at Draft

June 13, 2017

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Throughout his youth, Jo Adell was inspired by players such as Curtis Granderson, Adam Jones and Lorenzo Cain. After being taken with the No. 10 overall selection on Day 1 of the 2017 Draft on Monday, the Angels' top pick hopes to provide the same inspiration for African-American

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Throughout his youth, Jo Adell was inspired by players such as Curtis Granderson, Adam Jones and Lorenzo Cain. 
After being taken with the No. 10 overall selection on Day 1 of the 2017 Draft on Monday, the Angels' top pick hopes to provide the same inspiration for African-American children dreaming of a life in baseball.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
"These guys look like you and they did it," Adell said. "I guess as a younger kid, just getting into the game of baseball at age 7, 8, 9, seeing those guys out running around was definitely some motivation in me, seeing those guys being successful and doing that."
Eight of the top 26 picks (30.8 percent) on Day 1 of the Draft were African-American or Latino, continuing a recent trend of increased diversity at the top of the MLB Draft. The selection of Royce Lewis (Twins) and Hunter Greene (Reds) as the Nos. 1 and 2 picks marked only the third time in the last 30 years that African-American players were selected with the first two selections. Brien Taylor and Mike Kelly went 1 and 2, respectively, in 1991, while Delmon Young and Rickie Weeks were the top two picks in 2003.
• Angels take slugger Adell 10th overall
It was also the first time since 1992 that three African-American players -- Lewis, Greene and Adell, with the latter pair in Secaucus for the Draft -- have been selected in the Top 10. That year, Jeffrey Hammonds (No. 4), Derek Jeter (No. 6), Calvin Murray (No. 7), Preston Wilson (No. 9) and Michael Tucker (No. 10) represented half of the Top 10.

Some of these gains can be linked to MLB's efforts to increase youth participation, with initiatives such as Play Ball, the numerous Urban Youth Academies across the country as well as the new Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP).
"We do believe we are seeing a lot more productivity," Commissioner Rob Manfred said of MLB's development programs. "Prior to this year, about 20 percent of our first-rounders were African-American, and those academies have been built in communities largely African-American. Almost all of those kids had some touch with one of our Academy programs or with the Elite Development Invitational, and we believe that the bigger we make those programs, the more diversity we will attract to the game."

In addition, 10 players who participated in 2017 events for the inaugural Prospect Development Pipeline were selected on the first night of the Draft. The structure of the PDP program -- which is funded as part of a partnership between MLB and USA Baseball -- provides a streamlined, official identification and assessment pathway service for elite high school-age athletes to maximize their exposure to MLB clubs and their scouts by conducting regionalized, professional workouts where they can be evaluated.  
Greene -- who became the face of this Draft after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated earlier this spring -- is now the highest pick by any player out of the Urban Youth Academy network, eclipsing Dillon Tate, who was the fourth overall selection by Texas in 2015.

He's also the highest selection of an alumnus out of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program since Justin Upton was selected first overall by Arizona in 2005. Greene's selection marked the third consecutive season that an alumnus of the RBI Program was selected in the top five, joining Tate in 2015 and Corey Ray in 2016. 
Greene said that being a role model for kids -- African-American kids, in particular -- is important to him as he embarks on his professional career.
"It comes from being at the Urban Youth Academy at the age of 7 and having a great family support system that has recognized how important that is, not just for African-American kids, but for youth in general," Greene said. "It's a sport that people are shying away from and going to other sports to compete. I don't think -- I know it's the best game, baseball. It's important that these kids and other guys build a passion for the game and really enjoy it as much as possible."
Adell's mother is a middle-school teacher in downtown Louisville, giving him ample opportunities to speak with children about the importance of pursuing their dreams -- whatever those dreams may be.

"I go, 'Look, my presence here isn't to tell you guys to play baseball. My goal is to come here and explain to you guys that basketball and football aren't the only way out,'" Adell said. "That's my message toward them: 'Whatever you like to do, do it.' Don't be persuaded by your cousins, you brothers, whoever, to go out and play basketball because you think that's your only opportunity, or play football because your mom told you to. You have to do what you want to do. I believe that this is just one step, but hopefully progressing forward, that I become as successful as I can and show them that that's possible."
Both Greene and Adell felt their presence during Day 1 of the Draft was important, allowing kids all over the country to see that a career in baseball is an option for anybody who wants one.
"People become closed-minded for whatever reason," Adell said. "You see the NBA Finals, you see the NFL, that's all you watch and that's all that's on and that's all that's talked about. People don't recognize there are other things, there are other opportunities. It was important for all of us to be here and show that great things can happen if you put the work in."

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined as a reporter in 2001.