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Players take game to next level with MLB Tour

@JesseSanchezMLB
January 18, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Robert Evans isn’t sure where he would be without the MLB Tour program, but the high school left-hander is certain he wouldn’t be working out at Mike Trout’s Spring Training home during the fourth annual Dream Series with former Major League pitcher Darren Oliver peaking over his

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Robert Evans isn’t sure where he would be without the MLB Tour program, but the high school left-hander is certain he wouldn’t be working out at Mike Trout’s Spring Training home during the fourth annual Dream Series with former Major League pitcher Darren Oliver peaking over his shoulder and giving him pointers.

Evans’ best guess? He would still on the diamond somewhere trying to figure what, if anything, was next. Now, he’s focused on going pro or playing collegiately.

“I was playing baseball just for fun and realized there was another step where I wanted to take my game, and MLB Tour is where I realized that,” said Evans, a 6-foot-1, 193-pound junior at All Hallows High School in Bronx, N.Y. “It just gave me a chance to play with better guys, have better coaching and learn a lot more about fundamentals. I wouldn’t even be close to being in this position.”

MLB Tour is a new baseball development evaluation initiative designed to identify high school-aged baseball players for placement in advanced MLB developmental programs like the Hank Aaron Invitational, Breakthrough Series and Dream Series. The initiative also offers opportunities to participate in USA Baseball programs. Evans, along with Georgia left-handed pitcher Jaden Woods, Arkansas right-handed pitcher Gabe Starks and brothers Jared and Jordan Lewis of California, were all invited to participate in the Dream Series after participating in the MLB Tour program last year.

“The communities that we go into are communities where baseball is kind of forgotten in,” said Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development. “We’re in some pretty tough areas, but there’s some talent in those areas, so we’re going into those communities and providing the opportunities to get here, or to get to the Breakthrough Series or the Hank Aaron Invitational. Players like Evans were in the Tour and the world has opened up to him.”

This week, that world includes the Dream Series, a program run by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that is designed to develop and diversify the talent pool in the sport. The event, which runs in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, continues through Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Dream Series includes hands-on coaching and presentations on baseball career opportunities on the professional and collegiate level.

“[MLB Tour] was just amazing,” Woods said. “Going there, I was kind of nervous at first. What should I expect? It just turned out to be great because of all the things I learned to move forward in the game.”

For Evans’ part, he feels like he’s the lessons learned at the MLB Tour will propel him forward. And so far, he’s impressed Oliver and other members of the coaching staff with his ability to command his pitches and repeat his delivery. He admits he has still plenty of work to do. He’s right.

Evans turned 16 last month.

“All you have to do is want to play,” Reagins said. “The opportunity that we create, you never know what it may lead to. It may lead to getting drafted, it may lead to a college education. But you’ve got to find them. And they’re out there, so we’re committed to doing that. [Evans] is just one example.”

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.