California Warriors Alumni Give Strong Showing in High School Playoffs

California Warriors Shine in MCAL Championship

This past weekend, the MCAL Championship game was played between Drake and Marin Catholic High Schools. Many California Warriors had an impact, but none greater than that of former Warrior Owen Hamilton. With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 19th inning, Hamilton blasted a walk-off homerun, bringing home the championship for the Drake Pirates.

The 2017 MCAL Championship game was one for ages as the extra inning game turned into a two-day affair. Originally starting on Friday May, 19th at 7:00pm, the game was tied through 18 innings and officials decided to finish the game the next day as it was past midnight. Saturday afternoon was much different than the previous night’s showing, as the game needed just one inning to wrap up due to Hamilton’s walk-off home run.

As is typical in MCAL title games, many past and present California Warriors were scattered throughout both dugouts. We would like to congratulate those players on making it to the big dance:

Marin Catholic California Warriors:

  • Jack Harris
  • Sean Henry
  • Daniel Ongaro
  • Joe Levin

Drake HS California Warriors:

  • Owen Hamilton
  • Nick Roth

California Warriors Alumni Featured on Casa Grande NBL Championship Team

The California Warriors would like to congratulate the Casa Grande Gauchos on their recent NBL Championship, and are proud of the former and current California Warriors that helped make it happen. The California Warriors playing for the Gauchos are:

  • Hance Smith – C/SS
  • John Green – C/OF
  • Quinton Gago – LHP/OF
  • Eddie Bermudez – 2B

In their 11-1 Championship Game win Quinton Gago picked up the win on the mound, with all four players recording hits offensively in the win.

Lowell Standout Heads to Pacific

From SF Gate.

The road to a college baseball scholarship is paved — in no particular order — with connections, genetics, good fortune and a lot of sweat.

When you play in the Academic Athletic Association, the need for all of those ingredients is amplified.

That’s why when Lowell senior Joe Solomon was offered and accepted a partial ride to the University of the Pacific over the weekend, it felt especially satisfying to all involved.

He will join three former AAA pitchers now pitching at the Division I level: Lowell alums Craig Colen (Cal Poly) and Elijah Saunders (Grambling State) and Galileo graduate Kyle Nelson (UC Santa Barbara).

“It’s really exciting to be a part of that group that actually gets to move on and keep playing,” Solomon said. “I just have to keep playing and working hard.”

A UOP assistant coach was at Big Rec on Thursday when Solomon, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, clinched Lowell’s regular-season title with a 6-2 complete-game victory over Washington. Solomon threw a five-hitter, struck out six, walked one and improved to 6-3 with a 1.66 ERA this season.

In his three-year career, he’s 19-6 with a 1.79 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 164 innings.

Solomon is trying to lead the Cardinals (20-6) to their fifth straight San Francisco Section championship. A semifinal playoff win Thursday would put Lowell into the final next Wednesday at AT&T Park.

Solomon dominated last year’s 6-3 title-game defeat of Balboa at AT&T, pitching a seven-hitter and picking up two hits and three RBIs. The bigger the stage, the better Solomon seemingly plays.

“I’m not going to lie, it was a little nerve-racking with my possible college coach sitting right behind home plate,” Solomon said. “I tried to just treat it like any other game. Honestly, I feel most comfortable when I’m on the mound and get into the zone.”

His scholarship hasn’t come by accident, said pitching coach Emil DeAndreis.

In the summer before his junior year, Solomon worked out — bright and early — with DeAndreis regularly. Solomon alternated between weight work, running and their favorite workout: pushing the coach’s car through city streets.

“I put the car in neutral and Joe gets behind and pushes as hard and fast as he can for 30 yards,” DeAndreis said. “It’s quite a workout. … I knew then Joe was a special breed. I don’t know many 16-year-olds dragging themselves out of bed every morning at 6 to push cars. This was something he truly wanted.”

DeAndreis knew the path it took. He had a successful career at Lowell, but got no offers until Hawaii-Hilo gave him one.

“It’s always been an uphill battle to get noticed in the AAA,” he said. “It’s getting better, for sure, but still Joe is a very competitive kid. He was fascinated with the process.”

It helped that Colen, who mentored Solomon as a sophomore, had succeeded and earned a scholarship to Cal Poly.

Increased velocity on his fastball — Solomon’s now in the 83-85 mph range — a good curve and slider and general command, along with excellent grades (better than a 4.0 GPA), clinched the scholarship.

“He’s a really competitive kid in the best kind of way,” DeAndreis said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s accountable and never makes excuses. His qualities have rubbed off on all the other kids. You wish you had 20 like him on every team.

“It’s all about getting an opportunity. The door is open for Joe. He’ll no doubt make the most of it.”

Mendocino College Eagles Baseball Thriving Under California Warriors Alums

The Mendocino College Eagles Baseball Program has taken off this season under new Head Coach Conor Bird and Assistant Coach Ryan Burke, both of whom have strong ties to the California Warriors and First Base Foundation. Conor Bird served as a California Warriors Coach for a couple seasons, and was the pitching coach and Interim Head Coach for the College of Marin Mariners for 9 years before moving on to Mendocino College. Ryan Burke played for the Warriors for 6 years in high school and college, joined as a coach in summer 2015, and was named Director of Baseball Operations in the summer of 2016. At Mendocino, Burke serves as the Hitting Coach, works with the infielders, and is the program’s Recruiting Coordinator.

Expectations were low for the new coaching staff in their first year, but the new coaches have been able to shatter those expectations and turn the program into a contender in their first year. Taking over a 7-win team from the previous year with only 7 returning players on the roster was tough, but a new influx of talent and a new culture have the program on the brink of their first playoff appearance in many years.

Mendocino surpassed last year’s win total of 7 before conference play even began, as the Eagles went 11-7-1 in non-conference play. The Eagles have also enjoyed a 7-game win streak during the season, and the most recent CCCBCA Northern California rankings have the Eagles at #15, which is the highest they have been ranked in 20+ years. Currently, the Eagles are 14-11-1.

One of the biggest changes the new coaching staff has made is a new offensive approach that is generating a lot of runs. The Eagles are near the top of their conference in almost all offensive categories, and have already scored more runs in their first 26 games (154), than they scored in all of last season (132). They have also already hit 12 home runs and have 136 RBI’s compared to 2 and 118 in the previous season.

Congrats to Conor and Ryan, we love seeing California Warriors out in the world doing great things in baseball!

Dusty Baker’s Coaching Style Impacts FBF

The First Base Foundation and California Warriors are built on a culture of positivity and support, two characteristics of coaching that First Base Foundation Founder, Noah Jackson, learned at the hands of his Godfather, Dusty Baker. As Dusty captains the Washington Nationals through the 2016 MLB playoffs, his players have noticed and appreciated the calm, positivity, and trust that Baker brings to the clubhouse, attributes that instill confidence in the players and help them achieve their fullest potential.

dusty-cover

Nationals star, Jayson Werth, had some high praise for Dusty’s managing style: “…you can’t say enough about him. I mean, we’ve gone from one end of the spectrum to the other in a short period of time. When you walk into spring training, that first day of spring training, you could tell just how relaxed the atmosphere was in the clubhouse. And that’s held true throughout the whole season, and I think all that credit goes to Dusty. He had a vision, and what he wanted to do with this team, and he started that day one of spring training and has kept that going all the way here until the end of the season…You know, he’s just a pillar. He comes in every day with the same attitude. I’ve always said, players reflect their manager, and obviously we’ve reflected him in that regard. We’ve been ready to play, but relaxed; having a good time, and ready to win.” The First Base Foundation coaches promote these same values, building an atmosphere of respect and positivity that allows players to thrive on and off the field.

Click here for the full Washington Post article.

Stanford Study Ties Wealth To Academic Achievement

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In a recent study, researchers from Stanford University found that sixth graders in the wealthiest school districts are four grade levels ahead of their counterparts in poor districts. The study clearly shows both that the socioeconomic conditions that students face heavily impact their achievement and that race and class are still very closely tied – “Test scores reflect not just the quality of schools or their teachers, but all kinds of other factors in children’s lives, including their home environment; whether they attended a good preschool; traumas they have experienced; and whether their parents read to them at night or hire tutors…Not only are black and Hispanic children more likely to grow up in poor families, but middle-class black and Hispanic children are also much more likely than poor white children to live in neighborhoods and attend schools with high concentrations of poor students.”

These findings, in tandem with the new NCAA academic guidelines for athletic eligibility, accentuate the need for our communities to support minority student athletes in their pursuit of higher eduction.

Ben Somorjai Featured By Palo Alto Online

California Warrior Ben Somorjai was featured by Palo Alto Online in early April for an outstanding week at the plate that helped his team sweep a week of games. Ben went 6-10 with 4 Runs scored and 6 RBI. Take a look at the interview in the video below. Congratulations Ben!

3 California Warriors Alums Now MCAL Coaches

The Ross Valley Reporter just printed an article featuring four former teammates from College of Marin who have now returned to the MCAL as head baseball coaches – three of those guys, Patrick Conroy, Beau Gardner, and Alex Boeri also played together during the summer as California Warriors. Before returning to Marin to be the Head Coach at Terra Lina, Pat Conroy played in the Kansas City Royals farm system. Following his playing career, Gardner returned to coach with the California Warriors and currently is the Novato High School Head Coach, while Boeri is an Assistant Coach to Jesse Foppert at Marin Catholic.

For a look at the full article, CLICK HERE. We’re proud to see our alumni working towards being leaders in their communities and continuing their careers in baseball!

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California Warriors Alum Kenny Rosenberg On The Student-Athlete College Experience

California Warriors alum, Kenny Rosenberg, attends Cal State Northridge and is a pitcher on the D-I Matador’s baseball team. He recently wrote a piece for Matador Baseball Stories, an ongoing series told from the perspective of student-athletes on the CSUN Baseball team. Read the story below to hear how Kenny overcame adversity to ultimately become a stronger and more complete student-athlete.

Rosenberg

Playing under the lights at Jackie Robinson Stadium against crosstown rival UCLA, the freshman version of myself could have benefited from a few pointers. It was a lot to take in for an 18-year-old kid making his college debut against the defending 2013 NCAA National Champions. Accustomed to being a starting pitcher, I had never even thrown in relief in a game. Coach decided to put me in with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing 2-1.

I struck out the first batter on three straight pitches to end the inning, but then gave up a triple to lead off the eighth. My outing against UCLA was the epitome of how my freshman year went. I experienced a mix of peaks and valleys on and off the field, and I didn’t know how to respond to success or failure. In school, practice and competition, I had a lot to learn to become a great student-athlete.

Now at the halfway point in my college career, I’ve taken time to reflect on what it was like for me during my first two years and how I could have shortened the learning curve. Newcomers have considered my advice on many aspects of being a student-athlete. I tell them that I was in their shoes two years ago, but the years go by quickly.

During my first two years of college classes, I had many successes that came with many failures. In my first semester on campus, I finished with a near 4.0 GPA. I then proceeded to drop off during my first “in season” spring semester. Everything that was once so simple became quite complicated. I became focused on what I had to do to get by and I lost sight of what I needed to do to become a great student-athlete.

Looking back at my experience, I would tell my younger self that there is more to being an average student. I would emphasize that academics should be a priority.

When I set foot in the athletics’ weight room for our first 5 a.m. team lift in August of 2013, I didn’t have the body of a Division I athlete. I hardly lifted or worked out at all in high school, which gave me a large gap to cover in a short amount of time. I did my best to keep up with the rest of the guys who had been doing the exercises for years. Some of the upperclassmen were squatting more than 400 pounds, while I was still trying to learn the basic mechanics of a back squat. What I didn’t realize at the time was that everyone has to start somewhere and I needed to learn how to do everything the right way. While the strength coaches did a good job of explaining the right form to complete the exercises, it was up to the student-athlete to put it into action. If I could give my freshman self one piece of advice in the weight room, it would be to be honest with myself and lift only what I’m capable of. Also, I would encourage myself to trust that the coaches and other players would rather see me working to improve than see me try to impress.

After having success on and off the field during my freshman year, I went into my sophomore year with high expectations that I was physically and mentally unable to meet. After posting my worst GPA in the fall while simultaneously going down with a lower back injury, I had practically hit rock bottom academically and athletically. I watched every game for the first month of the season from a folding chair on the sidelines or by my computer, not knowing when my back would heal or when I’d even be able to throw again. By March 2015, I had a diagnosis and came to understand that I wouldn’t play for the rest of the year.

After being away from the game that I love for so long and by watching my teammates compete from afar on a low definition online video stream, something finally clicked. I focused on my education and began to right the ship. My grades improved. I also dedicated myself to my rehab program to get healthy. Eventually, without picking up a ball for nearly six months, I was cleared for unrestricted activity in June and soon after I started pitching again.

I believe that I needed to get hurt. I know it sounds weird, but my injury may have been my body letting me know that something wasn’t working properly. Now that I am healthy, I look back and see clearly where I went wrong. Sadly time machines don’t exist, but the best thing to do with hindsight is to use it for self-improvement. No matter what the obstacle is, no matter if you pass or fail, your experiences must be learning experiences.

If I could give a final piece of advice to every student-athlete, it would be to stay on an even keel. They may not encounter the same challenges that I have, but I promise they will be tested one way or another. Success and failure will come and go but the key is to treat them as one and the same – an opportunity for growth.

Reversing the Growing Gap in Youth Baseball Opportunities

Jason Lisk published an article on thebiglead.com that highlights many of the socioeconomic issues present in the world of youth and professional baseball that the First Base Foundation is committed to fixing.

This is Part II of a two-part series on MLB and Youth Baseball. Part I, which can be found here, focused on general challenges for MLB when working with youth baseball, from sports specialization trends to coaching challenges at the youth level, to cooperating with various organizations to promote the game. Today focuses on the specific challenge of improving the game’s diversity and increasing participation numbers in the African-American community, in a “travel-ball culture” where money is increasingly spent to train young athletes.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.42.29 PMLorenzo Cain and Andrew McCutchen are two of the biggest stars in MLB in 2015. Both centerfielders started in the outfield in this year’s All-Star Game. As fate would have it, they also were born less than 6 months apart, and grew up in Florida less than 250 miles from each other: Cain in Madison County near Tallahassee, and McCutchen in Fort Meade in the central part of the state. Their paths to major league stardom are vastly different, yet possess some of the same obstacles.

Lorenzo Cain’s path is virtually unheard of within baseball. As detailed by Andy McCullouch of the Kansas City Star last year, he never played organized baseball before his sophomore year in high school. His father had passed away when he was 4 years old, his mother worked two jobs, and Cain did not play team sports as a child because he did not want to add to her burden. His favorite sport was basketball, but when he got cut from the team his sophomore year, he went out for baseball. Madison County didn’t have enough players to fill out a junior varsity roster, and he got his opportunity almost by default. The first day, he showed up in jeans and borrowed an old glove (which happened to be left-handed).

McCutchen, meanwhile, did play youth baseball at an early age, starting with tee-ball. Writing in the Player’s Tribune, McCutchen said “I was crushing balls off the walls and running around the bases like crazy. I was good.” McCutchen’s issue wasn’t early exposure to the game, like Cain, but rather the challenges of a family that could not afford the expensive competitive teams outside his small town, on a travel circuit that so often leads to recognition and opportunities. For McCutchen, it was coaches and mentors who paid for many of the expenses associated with high-level baseball, bridging the gap of what his parents could afford, that allowed him to showcase his talents.

Not every player is going to have the freakish skill to overcome an eight-year playing deficit, like Cain; Not every player that flashes some talent, but cannot afford all of the extensive expenses of tournament baseball, like McCutchen, is going to find others that help along that path. If MLB’s increased focus on youth baseball has any impact, players who may not have gotten the full opportunity in the past will join them in the future.

Reversing Decades-Long Decline in African American Participation in the Sport

On Opening Day of this year, African Americans made up 7.8% of players on major league rosters. In 1986, that number was 19%. The sport has seen an influx of international players over the last two decades, but the percentage of domestic-born Caucasian players has not shown similar declines.

The reasons for this decline are multi-faceted. Comedian Chris Rock gave his humorous take on the issues with the sport and why it no longer resonates in the black community, in an HBO video. “It’s the game, it’s old-fashioned and stuck in the past,” Rock opined, “it has an old-fashioned code, too.” When it comes to the unwritten rules, where players often take offense at individuality, Rock said of the code: “Play baseball the right way … the white way.”

While Rock was more dismissive of economic–rather than cultural–issues driving the decline, those are likely just as strong of factors. According to Tony Reagins, former Angels GM who was appointed as MLB’s senior vice president for youth programs in April, “in our research, what we’ve found is that the financial barrier is an important barrier to participating.”

The Financial Costs are a Big Factor in Youth Baseball

kailen1Those financial barriers can be large for all families around the country, and have a disparate impact on the African-American community. The early barriers can include equipment costs. For soccer or basketball at the early ages, the financial outlay may include just the cost of a ball and shoes (and a relatively inexpensive pair of shin guards for soccer). For baseball or softball, those costs can include a bat, a fielding glove, multiple pairs of pants, batting gloves, shoes, and a batting helmet, and a bag to manage and transport all of it.

Once in the sport, the financial barriers for continuing in competition can escalate even more. This is particularly true as kids get to the 12 and 13 year old age groups, when baseball begins to see the participation decline as discussed in Part I. Local community-based leagues may have a relatively affordable entry fee.

Once tournament baseball becomes a bigger part of the equation, fees escalate. Tournament fees for a team can be in the $300 to $500 range, practice time might need to be reserved and rented, and uniforms become a separate fee. As Andrew McCutchen stated, “It’s about the $100-a-night motel room and the $30 gas money and the $300 tournament fee. There’s a huge financing gap to get a child to that next level where they might be seen.” You can add in other hidden fees like tournaments that, after already charging the large team tournament fee that parents are subsidizing, charge each family member a gate fee each day (and spread games over multiple days). And that doesn’t even get into the potential cost of private lessons or tutoring in this age of specialization.

Part of the pain of Jackie Robinson West being stripped of the Little League American title last year is that it went against many of these trends. Other organizations outside of Little League (which is one of many organizations around the country) don’t have the various boundary rules; teams are put together privately and players change teams frequently. It was a public face of opportunity to showcase the Little League revival in Chicago. As Andrew McCutchen said:

The kids from Jackie Robinson West had a really bad day yesterday. But you know what? Somebody probably watched their Little League World Series run and saw one of them make a smart play in the field or hit a perfect line drive up the gap. That kid might not have been the best player on the team. But somebody saw something in him, and they’re going to reach out and say, “Hey, I want you on my team.” They’re going to become like a second father or mother to that kid. Hopefully that kid has the courage to travel away from his family and the patience to become a great baseball player.

The NCAA’s Baseball Scholarship Limit Affects Diversity in the Sport

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.45.02 PMThe NCAA’s limits on college baseball scholarships is another big financial barrier for the sport. As detailed in this ESPNW piece, while Title IX often gets blamed, baseball doesn’t get any fewer partial scholarships than women’s softball (11.7 versus 12). The NCAA sets those limits and has decided to limit baseball and softball in favor of “revenue” sports of basketball and football. Thus, college baseball teams are left to divide 11.7 partial scholarships as they see fit among up to 27 players.

“One of the reasons why we struggle in some demographics, the best athletes are going where the college scholarships are,” Chris Marinak, MLB senior vice president, league economics and strategy, said. “The college scholarships are not in baseball, they are in football, basketball, some of the other sports. One of the reasons why we are looking to do these programs, because it hopefully provides an incentive for kids to play baseball and develop their skills, that allows us to compete with some of the other college sports that kids look to in terms of playing while in high school as a way to get a college scholarship.

“The biggest issue is the college scholarship structure itself,” Missouri head baseball coach Tim Jamieson said. “It’s not good for anybody that plays any other sports. If you do the math, and if you are not from a strong financial background, it’s hard to make that work.”

Speaking in the New York Times, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia set forth how those issues affect personal decisions. “If I hadn’t been a first-round pick, I would have gone to college to play football, because I had a full ride. All that factors in. How are you going to tell a kid from the hood that I can give you a 15-percent scholarship to go play baseball, or a full ride to go to Florida State for football? What are you going to pick? It’s not even an option.”

Super agent Scott Boras has even come out saying that MLB should consider subsidizing college scholarships if the NCAA is going to maintain the scholarship levels. Speaking to USA Today, Boras said, “I don’t think anything will change until Major League Baseball and the NCAA wakes up. Until we get this remedied, the Jackie Robinsons of the world aren’t going to come to college to play baseball.”

MLB is Making an Investment for Its Future By Trying to Reverse These Economic Trends

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.50.43 PMIn the face of these issues, MLB under Rob Manfred has made a renewed commitment to promoting youth baseball, and to specifically investing in programs that open up the sport to all kids and foster diversity. This includes sizable investments in the RBI program and the Urban Youth Academies. MLB and the MLBPA also announced a joint $30 million initiative at the All-Star Game to improve “the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada.” According to the release, funding will go to “training and recognition programs for coaches, grants for youth baseball academies, MLB’s new ‘Play Ball’ initiative and programs for players and former players who desire to work with youth baseball programs in their communities.”

The various programs are not charity. They are a recognition by the top levels of baseball that the investment is necessary for the future health of the sport, and to compete in the current sports climate. In the free market specialization climate where families are spending money for travel and exposure and training, MLB is trying to keep it as a sport open to all. Also, because the research shows that early exposure to the sport is a key indicator for remaining a fan, MLB knows that the twin goals of maintaining the overall popularity and allowing for opportunities to the best future players to help diversity are tied together.

“We look at development as a funnel. You have to get into the funnel if you are going to have a chance to get out of the funnel,” Marinak said. “The end of the funnel is the major league player. You can’t be a major league player unless you’ve played baseball at some point.”

“We think that getting people into the funnel at a young age helps us in both areas. Helps people get into the game and drive them toward fanhood, but also helps them get into the funnel, with a chance to be a major league player.”

That requires financial investment to make sure more kids enter the sport, and then can continue to receive that support once the financial commitments increase.

“We need to set up structures at baseball that help support that opportunity,” Marinak said. “If you are a wealthy family and you can afford to pay for a tutor, then you can do that. But if you are not in a wealthy area, or you are in an urban area where access is more difficult, there are alternatives for you that are cheaper, that provide more access. So that’s kind of where we are focusing.”

The RBI Program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) has been around since 1989, but has seen a renewed focus in recent years. In 2009, the program expanded to younger ages, and has grown by nearly 80%. It now serves approximately 230,000 children. “If a kid cannot afford to pay our entry fee, which is not very costly, we let that young person play at no cost,” Reagins said. “The idea of RBI is to go into underserved areas and have young people playing baseball, and we are in over 200 cities around the country.”

RBI is the broader-based program to provide exposure and opportunity to the sport. The Urban Youth Academies are a place where children in urban communities can get both initial exposure, and more detailed instruction as they age. In 2006, MLB began the first Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California. A new one opened in Philadelphia this year, and there are now five academies (also in Houston, New Orleans, and Cincinnati).

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.52.54 PMThe Urban Youth Academies serve more than 7,000 youth annually in those communities. The financial commitment from MLB is greater per child, with physical facilities within those communities, and training typical proved by former players at the major league, minor league, or college level, according to Reagins. Children can start as young as 5 or 6, and continue up through high school ages. There is no entry level tryout or requirement to get instruction. “There is no cost associated to coming to the Academy and being a member,” Reagins said. “All you need is a desire to want to play baseball. All the equipment is provided, all the tutoring or instruction is provided, it’s really a young person’s desire to come and want to play baseball.”

Marinak would not discuss the specific costs for MLB in running the two programs, but to illustrate the level of commitment that MLB is making to the Urban Youth Academies in trying to balance the scales and provide training for kids to compete with competitive travel programs, he said that MLB makes the same central contribution to the RBI program (for 230,000 kids) as for the Urban Youth Academies (with 7,000 kids).

Does baseball have specific plans to expand the program? In June, President Obama announced that San Francisco would be getting an Urban Youth Academy in the future. According to Reagins, other MLB clubs are becoming more engaged and wanting an Academy in their cities, and they are looking at 2-3 more in the next few years.

Former Players and Coaches Can Be a Valuable Resource

While the expansion of Urban Youth Academies has been a focused goal, the vast majority of children will not live within a short distance of one. There are 23 MLB markets that do not currently have one, not to mention the myriad other cities around the country where kids play baseball at the youth level. Reagins was asked if there were other initiatives that could subsidize coaches and former players who wanted to provide opportunities for high quality instruction to kids that might be able to otherwise afford it.

Citing the recent $30 million agreement with the player’s association, Reagins stated “camps and former players around the country that are doing things the right way, and are engaged with young people around the country, I think there’s an opportunity to help those programs grow and provide assistance where needed.”

“Each person, former player that has a camp, we’ll go through an evaluation process to vet the situation and make sure things are being conducted a certain way, and are being done for the right reasons,” Reagins said, “We’ll take a strong look at that, and if they are, and fit the criteria, we definitely would like to assist and be part of the growth in whatever region that is.”

MLB just announced that deal last month, and the protocols and procedures are still being developed, but former players and coaches who embrace the MLB goals should keep an eye out for further public announcements in this regard in the near future. As Chris Marinak stated, MLB recognizes that its former players are a valuable and unique resource in promoting the game.

“Something that’s unique about baseball is that you probably have more former professional players, given that we have such a big minor league system. We have a huge pool of former professional players, probably moreso than any other sport domestically, so we should capitalize on that. We should create opportunities for former professional players to give back to their communities and train the next generation of players. We should provide opportunities for former professionals to transition back to the community, and use baseball as a way to do that. I think that’s the type of program that we’re looking at that will provide a lot of value and reach across the country.”

Hope for the Future

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 2.53.49 PMAs USA Today noted at the start of the season, there are several encouraging signs that African American participation in the sport can rebound and return to where it was two decades ago. 65% of the African-American players were 30 years old or younger at the start of this season. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked 14 African Americans among the top 100 prospects before this year, including Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, and J.P. Crawford in the Top 10.

In this June’s MLB Draft, 9 of 36 first rounders were African-American, which represented the highest percentage in the first round since 1992. Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick of the Texas Rangers, is an alumnus of the Compton Urban Youth Academy, the highest pick ever to come out of that program. His selection is important for several reasons, including that the pitching position has been particularly underrepresented as the overall numbers have declined.

Dominic Smith and J.P. Crawford, also in Law’s Top 100, were Urban Youth Academy alums as well, and several others have started to trickle into the majors (Khris Davis, Anthony Gose, Aaron Hicks, Efren Navarro, Jon Singleton, and Vincent Velasquez). Over the last 4 MLB Drafts, 46 players who have come through an Urban Youth Academy have been selected.

I asked Reagins where he hoped to be with the programs.

“In Year One, hopefully, we can start to flatten out the numbers as far as a decline, if we can do that, then we are making progress. And then just gradual improvement, we know that this is not going to happen over night. We are committed to it financially. We are definitely committed to it emotionally and spiritually.”