ROSELAWN – They started with the Royals and Blue Jays, although not in Kansas City or Toronto.
Phil Anderson of Price Hill opened his baseball career with the Cincinnati Royals at age 4. Nigel Williams of Springfield Township began with the Bond Hill Blue Jays when he was 3.
Both are now rising seniors at La Salle High School and both got a taste of the big leagues while playing among 40 of the region’s best baseball prospects in the 2014 MLB Breakthrough Series at the new P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy July 25 and 26.
Cincinnati was one of four cities to host the 2014 Breakthrough Series, joining Brooklyn, N.Y., Bradenton, Fla., and Compton, Calif. The invitation-only camp for top inner-city prospects aims to promote baseball as a viable collegiate and professional option for urban youth and to showcase the players in front of college recruiters and professional scouts.
The Breakthrough Series costs nothing for participants; Major League Baseball and USA Baseball pick up the tab. More than 100 past participants have been selected in the Major League draft, including more than 60 chosen over the last three seasons.
Players in Cincinnati received professional instruction from former Reds like Dmitri Young, Denny Neagle and Jeffrey Hammonds and squared off against one another in a series of .
“It’s important to get to inner-city kids and give them a chance to be seen,” said 2005 Moeller High School graduate Cameron Satterwhite, who played a few seasons of minor league ball before joining the the Reds and the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy.
“It’s an opportunity for urban, inner-city kids to have a chance to work out in front of pro scouts and college coaches and to play the game at first-class facilities with first-class instruction. It helps our local game and it helps the game in general to have this caliber of players here for this.”
Anderson, a La Salle running back, said his heart is in baseball.
“Mostly the competition is what I like, but I love to hit,” Anderson said. “That’s my favorite part of the game, getting in there and swinging the bat.”
Working with professional instructors gave him some insight into his swing.
“I’m learning new techniques to what you can do in the batter’s box,” he said. “(I’m working on) my extension, really getting out and through the ball when I swing.”
Anderson hopes being seen by college scouts will help him land a scholarship offer; he would like to study sports medicine in college.
Williams wants to study public relations in college and already has a good spin on the ups and downs of baseball.
“It’s a game of failures, but when you succeed it’s the best feeling in the world,” he said. “You can go up and strike out twice, but if you get a line-drive double and knock in a run that third time, it’s a good day.”
Young — much slimmer than in his playing days stepped in the batting cage at one point and ripped line drive after line drive while — offering a running commentary on balance, quickness, hand position and more.
“I had my day in the sun and I enjoyed it,” Young said. “It was done for me in the past and you want to give it back to some kids who might not have a chance otherwise. Now you want to see other kids have a shot at their day.
“You have talent everywhere and it’s just a matter of them being seen. It’s about putting the kids in front of the right eyes. They’re all not going to make the pros or even play college baseball, but some of them will. You just want them to have a chance.”