Academy Notebook: Dash Johnson Top 10 finalist for PCA’s Coach of the Year; Corey Seager hosts 13U hitting clinic; Nicholas Smith reflects on DREAM Series

January 26th, 2024

Dash Johnson named Top 10 finalist for Positive Coaching Alliance’s Coach of the Year Award

Texas Rangers Youth Academy manager of baseball and softball operations Dash Johnson has again been recognized by the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) as one of 10 National Winners for its Coach of the Year Award, presented by TeamSnap. Johnson was previously recognized as a 2024 Regional winner for best representing the positive attributes of a PCA Double-Goal Coach and has advanced to the next stage of consideration for the Coach of the Year Award as Texas’ only remaining nominee.

As one of the 10 finalists, Johnson will receive $500 on behalf of the Texas Rangers Youth Academy and consideration for the sole Coach of the Year Award, to be announced in early March.

The PCA Coach of the Year will be awarded $5,000 for their school or program and receive an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco to be featured at the annual Game Changer Awards & Benefit at the Chase Center on March 21, 2024.

Corey Seager hosts second hitting clinic for Academy Athletes

World Series MVP and AL Silver Slugger Award-winner Corey Seager was back at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy last night to host his second hitting clinic for Academy athletes.

Joining Seager this time around were Rangers bench coach and offensive coordinator Donnie Ecker and assistant hitting coach Seth Conner, who were both instrumental in the Rangers record-setting 2023 season at the plate.

“Seager’s Squad” consisted of 22 of the Youth Academy’s best 13U baseball players, many of whom have participated in competitive tournaments like the Andre Dawson Classic 12U Tournament, Rangers Youth Academy Wood Bat Tournament and MLB skills events like the Jr. Home Run Derby and Pitch, Hit & Run.

Athletes worked through several tee and cage drills while Seager, Ecker and Conner provided personalized feedback and tweaks to improve players' effectiveness at the plate and held group discussions on routines and overall offensive approach.

At the end of the clinic, Seager and his wife, Mady, gifted each participant brand-new Adidas duffle bags, batting gloves, turf cleats, and powder blue Texas Rangers ball caps.

Nicholas Smith reflects on first DREAM Series experience

Two weeks ago, Rangers Youth Academy athletes Nicholas Smith and David Hogg II arrived at Tempe Diablo Stadium for the first day of the 2024 MLB and USA Baseball DREAM Series, a premiere amateur baseball development camp created to diversify Major League Baseball’s talent pool.

For Smith, a Mansfield Timberview High School sophomore, this DREAM Series was his first and unlikely to be his last as he continues to make a name for himself on both sides of the ball.

“It meant a lot to be selected to attend the 2024 Dream Series,” said Smith. “It was an honor to be recognized as a top African American player in the country...To participate in this event has been a goal of mine since first hearing about it a few years ago, so I was blessed to be selected.”

Now in its eighth year, the DREAM Series annually hosts around 80 high school ballplayers for the opportunity to receive high-level instruction and mentorship from current and former Major and Minor League players, managers and coaches.

Smith, who splits his time at shortstop and as a two-way pitcher, found on-field drills aimed at improving his off-balance throws and simulating come backers for situational playmaking were the most instrumental in his development over the long weekend.

Off the field, Smith found just as much value in learning from baseball legends like Los Angeles Angels manager Ron Washington and DREAM Series alum and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene.

As a long-time fan, Smith was thrilled about Washington’s role as a guest speaker, where he learned lessons he says will stick with him throughout his playing career and entire life.

From a player’s perspective, conversations with Hunter Greene, a former DREAM Series participant in the early stages of his big-league career, were the most impactful for Smith based on where he’s at in his baseball journey.

For the second consecutive year, Greene welcomed the athletes into his home for an evening of camaraderie and Smith was sure to take advantage of the opportunity for candid conversation.

“Hunter [Greene] and I spoke several times at his house,” said Smith. “The discussions varied from life in Major League Baseball to being drafted. I was able to learn a lot from him and his experience, which I will be able to apply to my career and decisions along the way.”

As one of the younger DREAM Series participants, Smith was grateful for the chance to meet peers and big leaguers in a position he hopes to one day be — entering the MLB Draft and soon after suiting up for a Major League club — something that has become more reachable than ever before through the creation of development events like these.

“I believe [the DREAM Series] brings awareness to people around the country that there are elite African American players," said Smith. "It allows like-minded athletes who are striving to reach the Majors to encourage one another while being mentored by the DREAM Series staff, and it teaches younger kids to dream bigger, knowing people who look like them are playing the game at an elite level."