In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, sports fans have witnessed professional leagues and amateur associations across the globe make the tough decision to end their seasons or suspend operations over the last two weeks. Baseball is one of those sports, and there is still some uncertainty surrounding the beginning of Major League Baseball’s upcoming season.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently cited the CDC’s recommendation to restrict events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks as the reason behind the decision to push back Opening Day from Thursday, March 26 to at least mid-May. And while the 2020 MLB Draft is scheduled for June 10-12 in Omaha, recent reports say MLB is considering multiple options for it as well.
As the current health crisis has MLB’s season start date up in the air, the uncertainty with the pandemic brought amateur baseball to a definitive and grinding halt last week as colleges and high schools across the country made the decision to suspend or cancel their seasons. To many, the cancellation of a season may seem like a short-term disappointment for high school or college baseball fans, however, it can have tremendous long-term consequences for amateur players and their potential professional career in the Major Leagues.
PROGRAM 15, the Official Global Grassroots Player Identification and Development Program for New Balance Baseball, is taking their own broad and swift action to fill that void by giving 400 high school and college-level players the opportunity to be scouted before the 2020 Draft.
The organization is announcing that it is in the process of organizing four New Balance Future Stars Series Pre-Draft Regional Combines in locations currently being secured in the North, Midwest, Southeast, and West regions of the country.
There is no cost to attend the two-day Pre-Draft Combines. However, participation is by invitation only and limited to a maximum of 100 draft-eligible high school and college players at each location. Players will be selected to attend the combines through an application and referral process. Official dates and locations are subject to an official MLB draft date confirmation and will align with Major League Baseball’s recommendations to ensure all 30 clubs have the same planning time and are fully aware of the opportunity to attend the events.
Draft-eligible high school and college players are encouraged to apply to attend one of the regional pre-draft combines as soon as possible by visiting https://futurestarsseries.com/pre-draft-combines/. College coaches are welcome to nominate players as well.
Traditionally, this is the peak time of year for Major League Baseball teams to have their scouting departments fully deployed across the country, scrambling to catch as many high school and college prospects as possible in preparation for the upcoming draft. Given current circumstances, those plans have drastically changed. The broad and swift loss of this year’s amateur baseball season has left a huge void in scouting opportunities.
Los Angeles Dodgers’ director of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino recently commented on the halt in scouting activity to the Los Angeles Times, “We’re going to try to make it to April 1 and just reassess the environment… Maybe creatively come up with some ideas, watch games on video. We have a lot of data we can sort through and just become more of a research department until we know what’s going to happen next.”
Jeremy Booth, PROGRAM 15 Founder, CEO and President of Baseball Operations for The New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series says, ”This is a crucial time of the year to be seen by scouts. It’s often the last window of opportunity for a lot of guys who have been overlooked or were perhaps a little slower in developing into great players. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity was just closed for a lot of truly talented players who, along with their families, have dedicated years of time and financial commitment to a future in this game. We’ve lost four months of games and there’s no way to replace that. But something needs to happen for the players, for the game of baseball, to calm some fears. And If there’s a possibility that we can do something about it. That’s what we are going to do.”
It isn’t taking long for the word to spread. Enthusiasm among baseball insiders for the Pre-Draft combines, which was recently mentioned on the MLB Network’s Power Alley show with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin, is extremely high.
Already drawing the interest of some of amateur baseball’s top talent, several Future Stars Series International Week alumni featured in THE ATHLETIC article “Keith Law’s Top 30 prospects for the 2020 MLB Draft” are expected to attend including:
Markevian “Tink” Hence
Since the inaugural International Week in 2018, the annual signature event of New Balance Baseball and PROGRAM 15 has featured 32 amateur players who went on to be selected during the 2018 and 2019 MLB Drafts. Total bonuses from MLB clubs to players participating in Future Stars Series events have passed the $18 million mark and hundreds of college scholarships have been awarded to players across all levels through PROGRAM 15 Regional Partner Organizations.
PROGRAM 15 Scouting Reports are just one of the reasons Future Stars Series Scouting and Evaluation events have built a reputation as the most comprehensive amateur baseball player identification and development experiences available. Backed by decades of Professional Baseball Scouting experience, PROGRAM 15’s highly skilled scouting staff provide in-depth and credible evaluations that are trusted by Major League scouts and college coaches across the country.
ABOUT PROGRAM 15:
PROGRAM 15 boasts a faculty and staff that includes multiple Major League All-Stars and World Series veterans responsible for executing the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series, an initiative between the two organizations to elevate the game of baseball by providing amateur players across all economic levels an opportunity to reach their full potential through the training, development, and guidance of former MLB players, scouts, and coaches. For more information on PROGRAM 15 and the Future Stars Series, visit www.futurestarsseries.com or @program15bb and @ftrstarsseries on Twitter.
ABOUT NEW BALANCE:
New Balance, headquartered in Boston, MA has the following mission: Demonstrating responsible leadership, we build global brands that athletes are proud to wear, associates are proud to create and communities are proud to host. Manufactured in the U.S. for over 75 years and representing a limited portion of our U.S. sales, New Balance Made U.S. is a premium collection that contains a domestic value of 70% or greater. New Balance owns five factories in New England and one in Flimby, U.K. New Balance employs more than 6,000 associates around the globe, and in 2017 reported worldwide sales of $4 billion. To learn more about New Balance, please visit www.newbalance.com and for the latest press information please visit http://newbalance.newsmarket.com.