Breakthrough Series under way

Breakthrough Series under way

COMPTON, Calif. -- The scouts from both college and professional baseball came to the MLB Urban Youth Academy on Monday with their radar guns and stopwatches finely tuned to watch some of the best young high school talent go through their paces on the first day of the second annual Breakthrough Series.

"Last year was a great event," said Frank Marcos, director of the Major League Scouting Bureau, who, along with the Academy and the Atlanta-based organization Mentoring Viable Prospects (MVP) -- which focuses on supporting young athletes in both academic and athletic settings so they can obtain college scholarships -- helped put on the series. "We really didn't know what we were getting into, inviting kids from around the country. This year we added another team, and we're really looking forward to a lot of good baseball."

The success of last year was evident in this past June's First-Year Player Draft. Of the 45 Draft-eligible players who participated in last year's Breakthrough Series, 13 were drafted by Major League teams, and four have already signed and are starting their pro careers.

"The exposure most of those kids got from the scouts were from this event," said Marcos. "A lot of them had never really attended showcases, and we're really excited about that."

"In addition to [the Draft] numbers, we're trying to find out how many of them ended up going to college," said Urban Youth Academy Director Darrell Miller, who has always stressed the importance of baseball as a way for players to get a college education. "We believe they are all playing baseball somewhere, but we're going to track the scholarship rates for those kids, because that is equally as important as signing. We are happy to be working again with USA Baseball, the scouting bureau and MVP. When you have quality partners like that, you're going to get quality kids."

On the first day of the series, all 80 players go through the same process for the college and pro scouts that other players go through in showcases around the country.

"This is a normal scouting workout," said Miller, a former Major League catcher with the Angels. "We do the 60-yard dash, the outfielders do their throws to third and home, we have the infielders do the long throw from deep shortstop, the catchers throw to second base, and we time those guys, and after that's done, we'll do live hitting."

Participants in the four-day event are high school juniors and seniors who take part in regional tryouts around the country and are invited to come to Southern California, expense-free.

"We have a lot of states represented," said Marcos, who believes more than 25 are taking part. "This is an opportunity for these kids to take what they learn here and spread it around in a lot of different parts of this country."

"This makes me feel real good," said former Major League All-Star player and coach Reggie Smith, who has been coaching for USA Baseball for the past nine years and will work with the participants during the series. "To see a lot of African-American kids out here get an opportunity to show there is still a significant interest in the game of baseball and that they have reached out into the community -- to find them and give the an opportunity -- is good to see, it really is."

The Breakthrough Series will continue with round-robin play on Tuesday and Wednesday. The players and coaches will take in the Dodgers-Reds game on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, and the championship game will be played on Thursday afternoon on the main field at the Urban Youth Academy. The game will be streamed live on MLB.com and shown at a later date on MLB Network.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.