MIAMI -- Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have worked together to run the Rookie Career Development Program since 1992. The biggest change for the 28th edition of the RCDP was in location. After years of having the event outside of Washington D.C., a group of the game's up-and-coming stars gathered in Miami this week.
The event is designed to help future big leaguers avoid the kinds of pitfalls that have kept many players from being able to focus on their considerable playing skills. As always, there were sessions on dealing with the media, how to handle situations in the clubhouse, drugs in baseball, inclusion, sexual health and financial planning, just to name a handful of issues addressed. Players interacted with each other around these topics and there were breakout sessions with former big leaguers to allow smaller groups of players to drill further down on specific issues.
This year's program also included outings to Top Golf and to take in a Miami Heat-Boston Celtics game.
"It definitely meant a lot [to be invited to come]," A's top prospect Jesus Luzardo (MLB No. 12) said. "It was definitely a big honor. I'm happy to be here, talk to other guys from other organizations and make the connections. There's definitely a lot to learn in this program."
Some were really looking forward to getting this invitation, having learned about it from prospects who attended in previous years.
"Last year in the offseason, at the gym I work out at in Houston, Tyler Beede came from the Giants last year," D-backs No. 1 prospect Jon Duplantier said. "When he came back, he was talking about it, obviously, and was joking, 'Hey man, don't worry, you're going next year.' He said it was a lot of fun, you'll meet a lot of cool guys and get a lot of good content. The D-backs called and told me they would like me to come represent. I don't want to say it was a sigh of relief, I kind of had an idea it would be cool to come, but when they told me, I was like, 'Cool, you all do have this faith in me.'
"I have this faith in me. To be able to come here and represent and be alongside all of these guys who are going to have great careers in the big leagues, it kind of feels cool to be included in that group."
For several years, the RCDP has included a program specifically for Latino players, and this edition was no different. The day before the main program kicks off, the Spanish-speaking prospects get to dive into issues that might be specific to their experiences in the game.
"It's very instructive," Astros No. 5 prospect Cionel Perez said. "I've liked it a lot. There's a lot of information and a lot of things I didn't know. You're constantly learning and they've given us a lot of information, which is something very important for our career. I think it's something special."
Every year, the RCDP has participants go from these sessions to big league rosters in the upcoming season. There have been Rookies of the Year, Cy Young Award winners and MVPs. So it's important to pay attention to this year's event, with every organization having sent some of their top prospects to Miami. There were 19 members on MLB Pipeline's current Top 100 Prospects list who attended.