A diverse group of players from around the country will participate in the two-week EDI program, a Spring Training-like camp. Among the 30-plus former MLB players providing instruction are Jerry Manuel, Tom Gordon, Cecil Fielder, Ken Hill, Marquis Grissom and Dmitri Young.
An older group ranging from ages 15-17 will arrive next weekend — bringing the total to over 200 — and the process of expediting baseball instruction, drills, games and seminars will be repeated.
Hunter Greene, a 2015 EDI participant from Los Angeles, was selected No. 2 overall by the Cincinnati Reds last month in the 2017 MLB Draft — the highest selection of any player who has attended the invitation-only camp.
In its third year, the EDI is an initiative and partnership between Major League Baseball, USA Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association Youth Development program. Winfield, 65, was hired by the MLBPA in December of 2013 as a special advisor to executive director Tony Clark.
The diversity-oriented camp will house the players and provide intensive instruction and games at the legendary facility. Historic Dodgertown was the Spring Training home of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948 to 2008.
“This initiative, this partnership on the Elite Development Invitational, is encouraging because America had lost its way on the ability for everybody to play baseball. Most kids love [baseball], but if they don’t have a source or an outlet, especially with some good instruction, it could be discouraging,” Winfield said as players warmed up, went through instruction and prepared for morning games.
Winfield described the initial meeting Saturday after the first group of players arrived as uplifting.
“Just to see the gleam in these kids’ eyes that want to play baseball …That’s the beginning of a larger payback. We debuted a video short on the legacy of black baseball players, and the kids were just wowed. I just talked to the kids in a way that they can relate to baseball at any level,” said Winfield.
“The kids were glued. They wouldn’t let me go — and I had to go to dinner,” joked the former slugger, who played for the Padres, Yankees, Angels, Blues Jays, Twins and Indians.
The Minnesota native said everyone likes to concentrate on hitting, but he let the youngsters in on a few special tips about taking care of their gloves — those secrets were just for the campers, Winfield kidded — but the real focus was on hosting a positive, encouraging instructional environment that will keep kids on the diamond.
“This is the level they need, hands-on instruction and encouragement,” the 12-time All-Star and 1992 World Series champion said of the camp, which features several elite-level players who were recently chosen for the National Team Development Program.
“Otherwise, they go somewhere else and play something else.”