WASHINGTON -- While visiting the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on Saturday afternoon, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to almost every team playing in the Commissioner's Cup and Jennie Finch Classic, tournaments for players ages 17 and under from MLB Youth Academies.Players and coaches from every squad waited to shake Manfred's hand,
WASHINGTON -- While visiting the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on Saturday afternoon, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to almost every team playing in the Commissioner's Cup and Jennie Finch Classic, tournaments for players ages 17 and under from MLB Youth Academies.
Players and coaches from every squad waited to shake Manfred's hand, chat for a few seconds and possibly take a photo with him. One of Manfred's final stops was with Jennie Finch's Aces softball team from New Jersey. Following their meeting with Manfred, many players wanted a picture with him. Only one player was brave enough to ask Manfred for a photo at first, but after she requested one, so did the rest of her teammates.
So Manfred encouraged every player to take a picture as he posed for four individual photos before opting for a group shot as the best way to commemorate the visit.
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Manfred spent about an hour at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, where tournament games were occurring. Manfred said it was his first stop since arriving in Washington on Saturday for MLB All-Star Game events in and around the D.C. area. The Midsummer Classic takes place Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
"I hope that being here, saying hello to these kids, just is a little, little piece of building their continuing interest in the game," Manfred said. "It's really important about days like this [that] kids come out and they see the opportunity that's embedded in our game."
Many heads turned at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy when Manfred arrived at about 3 p.m. ET. A group of reporters, cameramen and photographers followed Manfred around the facility as he spoke with coaches from every team, telling them, "We couldn't do it without [people] like you."
Manfred also interacted with the athletes. When speaking with the baseball players, one from the New Orleans Youth Academy said he's received interest from Ivy League schools. Manfred told him if he's not drafted to play baseball out of college, he should visit Manfred's office about possible opportunities.
Manfred also spoke with children who were watching the games. One kid was wearing a shirt with the word "baseball" on it. Manfred pointed to the word, saying: "That's a good thing."
"This is a weekend where we really try to celebrate the game," Manfred said. "And it's important that all of us involved in the game get out there and talk about our sport being the greatest sport in America."
Manfred spent some of his final moments at the facility watching a tight softball game between the Houston Youth Academy and the Nationals Youth Academy and taking photos with spectators before speaking with media on his way to a SUV.
Still, Manfred didn't jump into the car right when he reached it. The Philadelphia Youth Academy baseball team was entering the facility, and Manfred took a few minutes to greet the players.
"To me, this is the best part of our game," Manfred said. "Kids, fans from all over the country. Tons of diversity. Really athletic young men and women playing a game we all love."
Saturday was the last day of round-robin play in the Jennie Finch Classic. The top four teams will compete in semifinal games Sunday morning for a chance to play in the championship game Monday afternoon at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
Compton and Jennie Finch's Aces both finished round-robin play 4-0 and are the top seeds in the Jennie Finch Classic semifinals. Compton will face the No. 4 seed Rangers, while the ACES will play the No. 3 seed Nationals. Both games will be played at 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
The Commissioner's Cup will finish round-robin play Sunday before the first-place teams from the National League and American League face off in the championship game Monday afternoon at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington