It was a memorable weekend for three local high school baseball players who joined some of the most talented players from across the country in Tempe, Arizona, for the Major League Baseball "Dream Series."
The developmental camp is held in connection with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and teaches young players about much more than just the fundamentals of the game.
"I'm doing everything I need to do to become a professional baseball player," Franklin (Elk Grove) High School sophomore Chase Davis said. "Whether it's in the classroom or in the weight room or on the diamond, I'm getting better every day."
This was the second Dream Series weekend for Davis. He and a diverse group of 60 other high school players received guidance of former MLB players and coaches to take their talent to the next level.
"I really wanted to meet all these people and now that I see it coming it's really bringing joy to my heart," Alpha Charter sophomore Joshua Hardamon said. "It's really a blessing."
The event gives players of color an opportunity to be seen by college recruiters and professional scouts. It's an initiative by MLB and USA Baseball to help diversify America's pastime, particularly with pitchers and catchers.
"I can hit to all fields while hitting and a line drive hitter and I really love the plate," Capital Christian High School junior and UCLA commit Xavier Carter said. "For pitching, I'm usually crafty and finesse and I can usually get it to where I want it."
According to The Undefeated, there were a total of 63 African-American players across all 30 MLB Opening Day rosters in 2017.
"The game is missing a culture... A part of the culture that has given so much to the game," Sacramento native and former MLB manager Jerry Manuel. "Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, back in my day."
Back in Manuel's day the percentage of black baseball players fluctuated between 16-18 percent. Over the last 10 years, it's been hovering around 8 percent. Manuel and his sons, Anthony and Jerry Lorenzo, continue to pour into local and underserved talent as instructors for the Dream Series among other things. The former American League Manager of the Year has seen the game change over the last several decades but he's optimistic another change is going to come.
"I feel there's a shift happening," Manuel said. "I'm 67 so I might not get to see it at that time but I believe there's going to be a shift to where our guys come back to the sport."
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