Five years ago this week, Major League Baseball opened their first Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California. And now with a second academy already opened in Houston and several others in the works, we can see the fruits of all of all the hard work.
At its core, The Urban Youth Academy was started to provide baseball and softball instruction to young athletes. In MLB’s 2010 amateur draft, 25 players were selected that either played or trained at MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Since the academy opened, 100 players have been drafted, with more than half signing professional contracts.
In addition to player development, the academy also provides other free vocational training programs such as umpiring, athletic field management, scouting, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations, sports training and even statistics. But maybe more importantly, the academy also works hard to develop strong character skills in addition to athletic skills.
“Overall, we work diligently and positively to instill the following values in the youth we instruct: integrity, respect, accountability, character, self discipline, personal responsibility and teamwork,” said Darrell Miller, Vice President, Youth and Facility Development for Major League Baseball.
The academy, on the grounds of Compton Community College, is one of three currently in operation (Houston and Gurabo, Puerto Rico) and MLB already has plans in motion to open academies in Miami, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.”The goal is to have a MLB Urban Youth Academy in every city that hosts a MLB Club, and in some cases, cities that host a Minor League Baseball Club,” said Miller.
The academy in Compton also plays host to a national tournament featuring Historically Black Colleges and Universities, “The Breakthrough Series” in which players are showcased for collegiate and professional scouts, and the Academy Barons, a summer-league team for college-aged athletes.
Miller calls “The Breakthrough Series,” an event that features high school baseball players from around the country, key to giving the students exposure they may not normally be available to them.
“The Breakthrough Series was created to combat the “pay for exposure” policies that sometimes leave less fortunate baseball players on the sidelines,” said Miller. “Our hope is that …the exposure garnered leads to increased educational and professional opportunities for our students.
In addition to financial backing from Major League Baseball, the academies also receive funding from individual big league ball clubs, local city and state governments, governmental departments, and even active MLB players.
Jimmie Lee Solomon, Executive Vice President of Baseball Development for Major League Baseball hopes others will recognise the success and possibilities of the academy.
“Major League Baseball has a goal to bring a MLB Urban Youth Academy to every city that hosts a MLB Club, and even ones that support Minor League Clubs,” said Solomon. “Is that realistic right now? We’d like to believe so. As we continue to open Academies, we hope their success motivates other MLB Clubs and cities to work with Major League Baseball to make this vision a reality.”
After five years, it is hard to argue with success.
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