How the DREAM Series Helped Reshape MLB

Jerry Manuel dreamed of a moment like this. last month, for first time in MLB historyWatch four black players in the first five MLB draft picks: Drew Jones, Kumar Rucker, Termar Johnson and Elijah Green. It felt like a huge step after years of hard work by Manuel and so many others to develop the game and change the culture of the sport.

Throughout his playing and coaching career in Major League Baseball—which included winning Manager of the Year honors with the Chicago White Sox in 2000—Manuel has watched the number of black players decline, from youth levels to the major leagues.

“We’re constantly trying to change the game, but we’re losing a culture,” said Manuel. “We would lose an important part of the game if we didn’t participate in it.”

This lured Manuel to join the coaching staff of the DREAM Series, an invitation-only show hosted by Major League Baseball that gives elite black high school players from across America a chance to perform in front of college and professional baseball evaluators. The annual event, which began in 2017, takes place during Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona, the Los Angeles Angels’ training home. The program has already found success with major leaguers like Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene, who participated in the opening series. This year, it pays off more than ever, with Jones, Rucker, Johnson and Green drafted – all of whom played in the DREAM series.

“It takes time to develop and for things to happen the right way,” said Dale Matthews, Vice President of Baseball Development, a Black. “We’re just flooding these kids with the right kind of staff and the right mindset and opportunities for young kids. It’s starting to pay off.”

Manuel has been involved in MLB’s diversity efforts beginning in 2012 and has helped lead the coaching staff of the DREAM Series since its inception in 2017. Prior to the 2022 season, only 7.2% of players on Opening Day rosters were black, down from 7.6% in 2021 and 18.7% in 2021. 1981. Manuel witnessed this change firsthand, and saw the cost of youth baseball rise over the years as exhibition events and travel ball became the dominant method of getting players ahead of professional and collegiate scouts—making the expense prohibitive for many families.

Programs like the DREAM Series buck this trend, giving teams a chance to see players they might miss on travel and show-off itineraries.

“We’re missing pieces right now,” Manuel said. “We miss Willie Mays. We miss Hank Aaron. We miss Ozzie Smith. We miss all those guys. We have to find that and we have to look for those pieces. These pieces haven’t historically come from rich people so let’s go see where they are. Let’s go see where they “.

Manuel also wants to help teach young players about the history of the game and its connections to the history of black Americans, and help give young black players a safe space where they don’t feel isolated.

“What I notice is that when they all get here, this many black athletes are in one place, there is freedom to play baseball,” Manuel said. “There is a kinship to each other.”

In addition, Matthews said a key to the program’s success is the opportunity to expose young players of color to the high-level experience of MLB veterans such as Manuel, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, Atlanta Braves coach Ron Washington, and La Troy Hawkins, who have been in competition. Grand. for 21 years.

“Jerry Manuel feels this is a calling for his life and to give back and lead our coaching staff,” Matthews said. “Our coaching staff cares and gives their time to go in and help and create baseball as a sport for generations, so that the process will continue year after year.”

Players understand how the DREAM series has played a major role in their success.

“All my success, everything I’ve been through in my life,” Johnson said on MLB Network after the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted the fourth overall, “I give everything to the DREAM series and MLB pipelines.”

And while Manuel is proud to see more black players recruited after coming to the DREAM series, he says his main motivation is to develop young people with character who love baseball, even if they don’t end up pursuing a career in the industry as a player. .

“We’re taking baby steps,” Manuel said. “This is the [Jackie] Robinson method. Citizenship and integrity. This will help you in life. Not everyone here will play at the highest level, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of people in baseball. You might get to the front office because you know the game. I want to make the game better. My culture is missing out on it, and I need to do something about it. Whatever comes, we will take care of them.”

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