7/26/2014 5:38 P.M. ET
Showcase showdowns: Cincy youth on display at UYA
In two Breakthrough Series games, young talent granted immediate access to scouts
By Manny Randhawa / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Following a lightning storm at the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy on Saturday morning, 34 high school prospects who otherwise might never have had the chance to be seen by college and pro scouts were able to put their skills on display as part of the 2014 Breakthrough Series.
The series is a joint effort between MLB and USA Baseball, intended to provide exposure for young ballplayers, many of whom are African American, with showcase events in four regional sites for the first time: Brooklyn, N.Y., Bradenton, Fla., Compton, Calif., and Cincinnati.
The participants in the Cincinnati event held two workout sessions for scouts on Friday and played in two showcase games on Saturday.
The players who took part hope to one day follow in the footsteps of the more than 100 former participants of the program who went on to be selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, 60 of whom were chosen in the 2012-14 Drafts.
AJ Bumpass, an 18-year-old from Rougemont, N.C., showed off his combination of speed and power, tripling twice in one of the two showcase games on Saturday.
"[The Breakthrough Series] means everything to me," Bumpass said. "I feel like I don't get that much exposure in high school, and stuff like this really helps with the recruiting process, getting out there and having coaches see me against good competition."
Bumpass and several other prospects caught the eye of Jay Weitzel, a scout for the Minnesota Twins.
"I've covered the RBI [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] program a couple of times," said Weitzel, who has been a professional scout for 15 years and drove from western New York to be in attendance. "I love the facilities here, everyone's energetic, and the kids want to be here and appreciate being here.
"These kids are mostly younger kids. Basically, for somebody at this event, if these kids show something pretty good, one of the five tools [hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, strong fielding and strong throwing], we put them on a 'follow' list."
One of the players who showed excellent power is Jared Howell, a 15-year-old from Madison, Ala., who belted a two-run homer.
"This is an exciting experience," said the catcher. "Knowing that scouts are going to be here and you can see them; you don't have to think, 'Well, are they here or not?' You can see them, and they bring them to you."
Justin Ammons, a 16-year-old out of Cordova, Tenn., singled and doubled in the morning showcase game.
"First of all, it's a good feeling to know that I'm able to be here," Ammons said. "And then to perform well is even better, just getting my name out there and doing well. I'm just trying to get better to hopefully make it to MLB, and this helps a lot."
Former two-time MLB All-Star Dmitri Young, who had a 13-year big league career and spent four of those seasons with the Reds, wants to demonstrate how beneficial playing baseball can be as he coaches in the Breakthrough Series.
"When kids are at that point where they're usually geared toward other sports, these programs help show them that if they continue on with baseball, things can happen for them whether they stick with baseball or they use baseball to get into college and wind up majoring in something else," Young said.
"Baseball can be a tool for them to do whatever they want in life."
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.