VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Isaac Nunez is so close to achieving his dream of playing professional baseball that he can taste it, see it, maybe even feel it. On Tuesday, Nunez had a special opportunity to hear it.During Commissioner Rob Manfred's annual visit to Historic Dodgertown, where he spoke and
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Isaac Nunez is so close to achieving his dream of playing professional baseball that he can taste it, see it, maybe even feel it. On Tuesday, Nunez had a special opportunity to hear it.
During Commissioner Rob Manfred's annual visit to Historic Dodgertown, where he spoke and fielded questions from the participants of the 2018 Elite Development Invitational, Nunez raised his hand and put Manfred on the spot.
"Before asking the question, I was extremely nervous," Nunez said. "But then I asked it. It's been a childhood dream to be the first overall pick in the 2019 Draft."
Nunez inquired if the Commissioner would be willing to give his patented Draft selection phrase so that the room of prospective professional ballplayers could listen and visualize what it would be like to hear their own names called on Draft day.
Manfred smiled, asked Nunez for his name, stepped up to the microphone at the podium and announced him being drafted. u5:p
The room erupted in applause as Nunez stood and waved. It was a moment that will drive Nunez to strive toward a point where the next time Manfred says his name, it'll be for real.u5:p
"He just said it to me; I can see it as reality now," Nunez said, just seconds after personally introducing himself to the Commissioner at the conclusion of his presentation. "So, time to work harder and let's make that dream come true."
In addition to practicing his Draft introduction, Commissioner Manfred gave all 125 EDI participants an inside look at his job, answering a wide range of questions about Major League Baseball, addressing pertinent debates like the pace of play, as well as explaining just how important this program is to these young men's growth.
To Manfred, events like this week's Invitational -- interacting with some of the best and brightest young ballplayers in the nation -- are some of the best parts of his job.
"I'm really excited to be back here," Manfred said. "I always get a kick at being back here. But it's especially good when the Elite Development Invitational is going on. The enthusiasm of these young men for our game is just fantastic."
Manfred explained that being at Historic Dodgertown, where the likes of Jackie Robinson used to train almost half a century ago, shines a light on one of the league's highest-priority initiatives: improving minority representation in Major League Baseball.
"We have made a really significant investment in making playing opportunities available in underserved areas, and we're starting to see returns on those investments," Manfred said.
Manfred admitted that, despite the improvements MLB has made in including players of diverse financial and racial backgrounds, there is still work to be done.
"I think it's really important to come back to this place," he said. "I think that it kind of oozes the history of baseball and it gives these young men a sense that they are a part of something that's really a significant piece of American history."
To Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball & softball development, having the Commissioner around during EDI programming is an invaluable opportunity for the participants to have a conversation that will help them throughout their impending baseball careers.
"You're encouraged by the support you receive from the big guy," Reagins said, explaining Manfred has been a part of the event since becoming Commissioner. "So, it's something that we don't take for granted and we appreciate him coming down. … When you see him interacting with the kids here, it's extremely positive."
For Nunez, who has already committed to playing at the University of Florida, Manfred's presence puts his aspirations into perspective. An event like EDI already affords these young men an opportunity to learn from and play alongside the best. However, getting to hear firsthand from the man who will one day vocalize that their dreams have become reality is immeasurable.
"It's Mr. Manfred. It's the Commissioner of baseball," Nunez said. "Again, you have all these great coaches, obviously, and all these speakers. But he's the guy that's going to be announcing your name in the future. It's going to be fun, I can't wait for it."
Manfred is optimistic about the crop of prospects he interacted with Tuesday and, like Nunez, looks forward to witnessing what all these young men are capable of, both on and off the field.
"This is the future of our game," Manfred said. "Every person in this room will be a part of our future. They will have played long enough that they will be avid fans, even if they don't have a playing career. Some of them will turn out to be people who run clubs and work off the field and obviously some of them are going to be part of the playing component in Major League Baseball. So it is our future.
Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Goodman97.