A Major League youth movement was in full effect in 2015. Just to start, Rookie of the Year Award winners Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa lit up opposing pitchers and filled highlight reels deep into October.
Off the field, the game became even younger. MLB and the MLB Players Association joined forces to commit $30 million to kids initiatives, Cal Ripken Jr. was named a special youth advisor to Commissioner Rob Manfred, and MLB and USA Baseball jointly launched the Play Ball program.
With an eye toward the next generation of Bryce Harpers and Mike Trouts, here are the top 10 youth baseball and softball stories of 2015. (For purposes of this list, "youth" will be defined as any participants not yet in the big leagues.)
1. June 18: MLB and USA Baseball launched the Play Ball initiative as the ultimate resource for youth players, coaches and parents. The program aims squarely at getting more boys and girls across the country and beyond engaged in America's pastime.
2. June 8: The D-backs selected Dansby Swanson from Vanderbilt University with the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. The shortstop watched the news unfold with teammates during the College World Series. In December, Swanson was sent to the Braves in the Shelby Miller deal, becoming just the fourth No. 1 pick traded before reaching the Majors.
3. July 12: Then merely a prospect with the Cubs, Kyle Schwarber tripled and earned MVP honors at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati.
4. Aug. 30: Fans in Williamsport, Pa., shattered the all-time Little League World Series attendance record of 414,905 over the course of 32 games, highlighted by a local crowd that turned out to watch the team from nearby Red Land, Pa., reach the title game.
8. June 22: French 16-year-old shortstop Melissa Mayeux, a member of the French U18 junior national team, became the first known female added to MLB's international registration list. The distinction makes her eligible to one day sign with an MLB club.
10. June 8: UC Santa Barbara's Dillon Tate was chosen by the Rangers as the No. 4 pick overall and first pitcher in the 2015 MLB Draft. He honed his skills in MLB's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., and set the tone in the Draft, as nine of the first 36 players selected were African-American, the most since 1992.
Mike McCormick is an editorial director for MLB.com and has covered the big leagues for 20 years. For information on ways for kids to play, leagues near you and more, visit playball.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.