But Solomon said on Saturday that places like the Academy will be a big help in developing MLB-caliber players. So far, two have been signed by Major League teams. Lyndon Pool was signed by the Dodgers based on his performance in a one-day tryout camp, and Cardoza Tucker, a pitcher who played in the MLB Scouts League last fall, was subsequently signed by the Astros.But that's just the beginning, Solomon said. "In two years there will be four or five players drafted in the first round out of here," Solomon said. "I'm not kidding. That's going to open the eyes of some people." An Academy in the nation's capital was part of MLB's agreement in moving the Nationals from Montreal into a state-of-the-art ballpark funded largely on public funds. The team moved in 2005 and the new yard is slated to open next year. Solomon added that the Phillies had contacted MLB about building an Academy in the Philadelphia area and that his office was also currently looking at land for such a project in Hialeah, Fla., just north of Miami. In Compton, a six-year endeavor from start to finish began as a nationwide search for a suitable site and later turned into a major land acquisition and construction project. Last year the Atlanta Braves followed by opening their own Urban Academy on a much smaller scale. Spreading elsewhere should be the goal, said Pierre, the first-year Dodgers center fielder who played as a kid on the unshaven fields of Louisiana. "They should have others set up," he said. "They should have one like this in the deep south. Just have it accessible. You can't get into these kids' minds, but if given the opportunity to make the choice to play baseball, it can only help." Given his success in Compton with the first Academy, and Memphis with the first Civil Rights Game, Solomon is also now thinking big. "If I could have anything I want? What could I have? I'd have an Academy in every city that has a Major League or Minor League team," he said. "That would be hundreds. And they'd be all over. I probably won't be able to get there in my lifetime, but let's get as many built as we can."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.