MLB celebrates youth baseball, softball at World Series

October 29th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- Miranda Castaneda grew up a dedicated fan of , and as one of dozens of youth across the country who have participated in Major League Baseball-led programs and were invited to Globe Life Field, she saw her favorite player at Game 2 of the World Series on Saturday night.

Castaneda and the student-athletes participated in a special PLAY BALL event on Saturday afternoon at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy in West Dallas before being celebrated and recognized during pregame ceremonies at Globe Life Field before the Rangers and D-backs squared off.

Here are the youth student-athletes who attended the Fall Classic as guests of Major League Baseball.

2023 Nike RBI World Series Champions
The Chicago White Sox Nike RBI program won their second consecutive junior baseball division championship this August, continuing a winning tradition that dates back to D-backs outfielder and program alum , who participated in several MLB Develops programs as a youth.

Joey Ireland joined the program this year and was named MLB Develops Chevy Co-MVP of the Junior Division Championship Game after his seven RBIs in the tournament at shortstop. He got a chance to watch Thomas, who credited the MLB Develops program for “putting my name out there,” for a second time.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Ireland said. “I saw him play in Chicago when Arizona came, and I was able to get a photo and see him.”

“They get to see a guy who came from their program,” coach Marcus Rodgers said. “And see that if they work their tails off, they’ll have an opportunity to play in the World Series.”

Several members from each championship team of the 2023 Nike RBI World Series attended the Fall Classic, including the Chicago White Sox Nike RBI program (junior baseball divisions) and Houston Astros Nike RBI champions (senior baseball & softball divisions).

MLB Youth Academy Network “Youth of the Year”
Ten members of the MLB Youth Academies from around the country and Puerto Rico were also honored pregame. They are their respective Academy’s “Youth of the Year,” which recognizes a member who has had a positive year on and off the field, has overcome challenges in their lives or has made a positive impact in their community:

  • Miranda Castaneda from City Hill, Texas (Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy)

“I’m glad I got to share this with my dad,” Castaneda said. “He’s always wanted to go to a World Series, too, and I’m glad I get to do this with him.”

  • Keyla Arce from Peñuelas, Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy)
  • Dontae Finley from Kansas City, Mo. (Kansas City Royals MLB Urban Youth Academy)
  • Shunichiro-Tecumseh Futakata-Washington from Houston (Houston Astros MLB Youth Academy)
  • Kenyon Hughes Jr. from New Orleans (New Orleans MLB Youth Academy)
  • Malakai Pruitt from Long Beach, Calif. (MLB Compton Youth Academy)
  • Jayden Rodriguez from Philadelphia (Philadelphia Phillies MLB Urban Youth Academy)
  • Avery Roever from Cleves, Ohio (P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy)
  • Hasan Sackor from New York City (DREAM MLB Youth Academy)
  • Madison Williams from Washington, D.C. (Washington National Youth Baseball Academy)

CHEVROLET’S “MLB Develops MVP” and “PLAY BALL Player of the Month”
PJ Morlando, who is ranked as one of the top high school prospects in the Class of 2024, was able to get his first taste of MLB playoff baseball on Saturday before he likely hears his name called in the ‘24 Draft. He was one of 10 “MLB Develops MVP” award winners, which recognizes standout performances by youth baseball and softball players at some of the premier, MLB-led league and development events.

The Chevrolet-sponsored awards also include the acknowledgement of important contributions to the sport from youth around the country (two players per month), as nominated by their coaches, community leaders or local league officials through “PLAY BALL Player of the Month.”

MLB Develops MVP winners:

  • PJ Morlando from Summerville, S.C. -- MLB-USA Baseball High School All-American Game (Boys Baseball)

“For me, this was super special because I got to bring my mom with me here,” Morlando said. “As soon as I got the call, I asked her if she wanted to go, and she was so excited.”

  • Sophia Broderick from Geneva, Ill. -- Girls Baseball Elite Development Invitational (Girls Baseball)
  • Vernon Clay from Richmond, Texas -- Nike RBI World Series Sr. Division Championship (Boys Baseball)
  • Joey Ireland from Homewood, Ill. -- Nike RBI World Series Jr. Division Championship (Boys Baseball)
  • Kaiden Lopez from Orlando, Fla. -- Breakthrough Series (Boys Baseball)
  • Anthony Pack Jr. from Lakewood, Calif. -- States Play Invitational (Boys Baseball)
  • Kamryn Potts from Rockledge, Fla. -- Trailblazer Series (Girls Baseball)
  • Ameer Rule from Chicago -- Nike RBI World Series Jr. Division Championship (Boys Baseball)
  • Khamaree Thomas from Chicago -- Breakthrough Series Invitational Tournament (Boys Baseball)
  • Eli Willits from Fort Cobb, Okla. -- States Play Invitational (Boys Baseball)
  • Mikey Wisner from Mandeville, La. -- All-Star Commissioner’s Cup (Boys Baseball)

PLAY BALL Players of the Month:

  • Sophie Gray from Linwood, N.J. (April)

“I’m supporting the Rangers just for the game,” said Gray, who attended her first MLB game. “I don’t like the Diamondbacks because they took down the Phillies.”

  • Paxton McIntyre from League City, Texas (April)
  • William Gonsalves from Lake Elsinore, Calif. (May)
  • Lilly Saltzman from Cornelius, N.C. (May)
  • Olivia Sears from Kingston Township, Pa. (June)
  • Jamison Styles from Cypress, Texas (June)
  • Gordon Kelly from Lakeville, Minn. (July)
  • Nevaeh Martinez from Hudson, Colo. (July)
  • Christine Braun from Kennesaw, Ga. (August)
  • Siddha Koduri from Dunwoody, Ga. (August)
  • Wyatt Veal from Royston, Ga. (September)
  • Zoey Weed from Colgate, Wis. (September)

Jennie Finch Empowerment Award, ARM & HAMMER Check Presentation
The fifth season of the Jennie Finch Empowerment Award, presented by ARM & HAMMER, honored four young women who demonstrated leadership characteristics on and off the softball field. Each of the four following winners received a $10,000 scholarship donation for their leadership while participating in an MLB-led softball program, and they showed that leadership at the PLAY BALL event by mentoring and playing with younger youth.

  • Karley Clark from Fairfield, Ohio -- Elite Development Softball Invitational

“Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to be here, let alone go on the field for it,” Clark said. “It’s a crazy, cool experience.

“Being able to go to PLAY BALL and being able to play with, talk to and mentor little kids was one of my favorite things.”

  • Jada Cooper from Houston -- All-Star Jennie Finch Classic
  • Ana Gonzalez from Midlothian, Texas -- Softball Breakthrough Series
  • Kristin White from Gambrills, Md. -- Nike RBI World Series

2023 American Legion Champions
League City Texas Post 554, the 2023 American Legion Champions, from League City, Texas were also celebrated and recognized on the field.