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Elite Development Invitational: Cultivating Black Baseball Excellence

The Elite Development Invitational is one of Major League Baseballs prized diversity initiatives designed to enhance the mission of identifying diverse talent with the ability to excel in the sport and making the game more accessible and desirable to young athletes of color.

The Elite Development Invitational is one of Major League Baseballs prized diversity initiatives designed to enhance the mission of identifying diverse talent with the ability to excel in the sport and making the game more accessible and desirable to young athletes of color. 

The EDI consists of two weeks of baseball at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL and features 125 Players from 19 U.S. States. Week One is for players ages 15-17 and is wrapping up today. Special presentations included those by Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. and Dave Winfield as well as addresses from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred & MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark. 

MLBDevelops on Twitter

At #EDIbaseball, prospects are getting an up-close look at life in @MLB. https://t.co/gtDzQs5g0k

Week Two, geared towards players ages 13 to 14, will be held from Friday, July 27th through Thursday, August 2nd, and will also feature special appearances, including Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick. 


The player seminars are vital to the overall experience of the camp and provide players with support systems and inside knowledge about the game and how to make it a beneficial part of their lives. 


“EDI creates dreams, inspires, gives hope, and opportunity for student-athletes that aspire to go to another level,”  Del Matthews, MLB Sr. Director of Baseball & Softball Development, told The Shadow League. on Wednesday.  Matthews, a former minor leaguer in the Milwaukee Brewers system, is also the son of former MLB star Gary Matthews and brother of former MLB player Gary Matthews Jr.

He found his calling in nurturing, cultivating, motivating and discovering the next generation of MLB’s Black Knights. Producing pros is the material goal, but creating a lasting baseball culture while enabling kids of color to utilize the sport as a stepping stone to higher achievement speaks to the gut of the initiative. 

MLBDevelops on Twitter

Did @Taytram24 have one of the best baseball weeks ever? https://t.co/mXaDoyZFkR


“The MLB/MLBPA/USA Baseball partnership is making a significant impact in the lives of these young men and we take great pride when participants from EDI receive college scholarships and have the opportunity to play at the professional level,” Matthews added. 

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The schedule includes player workouts and games in a Spring training environment designed to provide a professional-level experience. Its a first class introduction to The Show. 


In addition to interacting with and learning from the legendary guests, the participants will have the voluntary opportunity to undergo unique athletic assessments, consisting of performance vision screening, swing analysis and precise physical testing, which is administered through the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) program.

MLBDevelops on Twitter

The grind never stops. #EDIbaseball

The players for each week were selected by a combination of the following groups: MLB Youth Academy network, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, USA Baseball, the Buck ONeil Scouts Association, MLB Scouts, and individual active and former players. 

Many players were also participants of previous Breakthrough Series Development Camps hosted by MLB & USA Baseball. The event is made possible through joint funding by MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball.

MLBDevelops on Twitter

Another day to improve! #EDIbaseball



 

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The EDI features appearances and presentations from MLB, MLBPA and USA Baseball personnel, including Tony Reagins (MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball & Softball Development), Kim Ng (MLB Senior Vice President of International Baseball & Softball Development), Dave Winfield (Hall of Famer & MLBPA Advisor to the Executive Director), Bo Porter (MLBPA Director of Player Development and Youth Initiatives), Jeffrey Hammonds (former Major League All-Star and current MLBPA Special Assistant for Player Program Development), Jerry Manuel (MLB Youth Programs Consultant) and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. 


MLBDevelops on Twitter

All about instruction at #EDIbaseball.

Week One was blessed with a laundry list of instructors with MLB experience including Tom Flash Gordon,  Marquis Grissom, Delino DeShields, LaTroy Hawkins, Reggie Smith, Dmitri Young, Charles Johnson and Juan Samuel, just to name a few.  Week 2 will be just as plentiful, informative and inspirational.  

MLBDevelops on Twitter

Thanks for stopping by #EDIbaseball, @ryanhoward!

 

Additionally, college baseball coaches, including two head coaches from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities), will serve as EDI instructors:


Among them are Auntwan Riggins (Head Baseball Coach, Prairie View A&M University), Edwin Thompson (Head Baseball Coach, Eastern Kentucky University), Bretton Richardson (Head Baseball Coach, Alcorn State University).

Initiatives such as EDI, Dream Series and Breakthrough Series have proven to work and are leading contributors to the increased number of players of color drafted by MLB over the past five years. And the numbers keep growing. 

There were seven Elite Development Invitational alumni selected in the 2017 MLB Draft: Hunter Greene (2015 EDI, 1st round, CIN), Jevon Ward (2015 EDI, 12th round, MIL), Antoine Mistico (2016 EDI, 14th round, DET) Marlin Willis (2015 EDI, 18th round, KC) Cordell Dunn (2016 EDI, 19th round, TOR) R.J. Barnes (2016 EDI, 34th round, CIN) and Jose Garcia (2016 EDI, 38th round, BOS).

MLBDevelops on Twitter

@HunterGreene17 only knows and up. https://t.co/1UgJdXLQyp


In 2018, that number spiked to 13 players, which further supports the analogy that EDI is a field of dreams for young players of color. 


That draft class included Osiris Johnson (2016-2017 EDI, 2nd round, MIA), Taj Bradley (2016-2017 EDI, 5th round, TB), Lawrence Butler (2016-2017 EDI, 6th round, OAK), Cabera Weaver (2016 EDI, 7th round, CWS), Regi Grace (2017 EDI, 10th round, MIN), Drevian Nelson (2016-2017 EDI, 14th round, LAA), Kelvin Smith (2016-2017 EDI, 20th round, DET), Pablo Garabitos (2017 EDI, 25th round, MIL), Julian Boyd (2015-2016 EDI, 26th round, CHI), William Duncan (2015 EDI, 29th round, SD), Bryce Bush (2017 EDI, 33rd round, CWS), Elijah Pleasants (2015 & 2017 EDI, 36th round, KC) and Kyle Salley (2016 EDI, 40th round, CWS).

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“We cannot be more pleased with the progress of EDI, ” Matthews told The Shadow League. “The talent level continues to rise, which makes the level of play that we are seeing throughout the week, extremely competitive and at an elite level. The star studded coaching staff is loaded with hundreds of years of Major League experience which makes this program extremely unique in the amateur space”

And extremely necessary as MLB looks towards the future

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.