For most professional baseball players, the road to the big leagues is long, full of unknowns and takes thousands of hours of dedicated practice and workout time.
“That will always be the case,” says former professional baseball player, Allan Dykstra. “There is no shortcut to the MLB; it takes hard work and dedication, a type of dedication that sets one apart from the rest.”
Dykstra, who was drafted 23rd overall by the San Diego Padres in the first round of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft, knows what it takes to get through the professional ranks and loves to teach the lessons he has learned during his career to up and coming players. In fact, Dykstra was on hand Sunday, Jan. 8, at the first ever Community Baseball Day, held at Murrieta Mesa High School, to lend his expertise to the hundreds of youth baseball players in attendance for the day’s event.
The Community Baseball Day came at just the right time during the holiday vacation as a break in storm systems gave the coaches and coordinators just enough time to get the fields ready for the day filled with baseball. Not only was a youth camp put on, but hundreds of players showed up to showcase themselves, hoping to be seen by player development coaches and major league scouts in attendance.
The idea behind the day came from quite a few individuals, but was spearheaded by a new local organization called, It’s Bigger Than Sports, a nonprofit sports development and assistance organization, which Dykstra also works with. Heath Thomas, the nonprofit’s executive director, and Mishael Israel, a Seattle Mariners team assistant scout, began pounding the pavement a little less than a month ago to get this day off the ground, which it did, with much success.
Seven-time MLB All-Star Reggie Smith, a who played on the Dodgers’ 1981 World Series team, spoke to the players and families, as did Murrieta Mayor, Rick Gibbs as well as one of the nation’s top prospects, Garrett Mitchell, a senior at Orange Lutheran High School. Mitchell currently plays center field and will play for UCLA next year. All delivered a simple message about keeping the game fun, enjoying the time spent playing and always striving to do your best as a player and teammate.
The morning consisted of workout sessions for the older players and a youth camp for the younger players that ranged in age from 8 to 10 years old. Once the lunchtime ceremony was over and the VIP speakers delivered their messages, players that were chosen for afternoon prospect games got to compete for a chance to really showcase their skills. The major plus for players that attended was the idea that grasped everybody’s attention, which is that the Seattle Mariners will run a “scout ball” program at Murrieta Mesa for invited high school players later this year.
“The high school teams in this area are really good,” Gary Patchett, the Mariners’ Southern California scouting area supervisor said of the Southwest Riverside County teams. “Murrieta Mesa wining the CIF Div. 1 Championship this past year was huge; Temecula Valley winning it three years ago really put the area on the map and then not to mention the other leagues out here, there is just so much talent for it being a very untapped area. We are excited to have a presence here in the near future.”