Texas Rangers Academy Notebook for April 28, 2023

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The Texas Rangers Youth Academy wrapped up a successful spring programming session for its baseball and softball players this week.

Almost 400 athletes ages 7-18 participated in the five-week training session, where they received hands-on coaching from the Youth Academy staff to improve hitting, fielding, throwing, base running and more, all at no cost.

Registration for the summer session is open now at rangers.com/academy and will begin on May 30 for 9U and 12U athletes and June 2 for 18U athletes.

Reigning National Champion ready to face the competition at Texas Rangers Youth Academy Jr. Home Run Derby – Sunday, April 30

The long-awaited opening round of the Jr. Home Run Derby at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy takes place this Sunday, April 30, on Kershaw and Hamilton Fields.

Nearly 100 of the Youth Academy’s best baseball and softball sluggers will compete against one another in the first-round local competition, with the top athletes from each age division advancing to the Jr. Home Run Derby Dallas Regional on June 25.

Sunday’s swing-off will begin at 9 am with 14U baseball, followed by approximate start times for 12U baseball at 10 am, 16U softball at 11 am and 14U softball at noon.

The competition will be split into two rounds, with athletes facing 20 machine-pitched balls during their plate appearances. Every athlete will have a chance to rack up as many home runs as possible in their first at-bat and the top two performers in each division will advance to round two for a head-to-head competition until one winner prevails.

The Texas Rangers Youth Academy had a handful of athletes advance to the 2022 Dallas Regional, four of whom moved on to the national finals at Dodger Stadium during MLB All-Star Week.

Among the participants in the national finals was Rangers Youth Academy athlete and Kennedy Middle School student Braylon Hubbard, who hit 13 dingers in round one, followed by another 16 in the final round to earn the title of Jr. Home Run Derby National Champion in the 12U baseball division.

Hubbard, who will compete in the 14U division this year, is looking forward to going “toe-to-toe” with the new competition, including 2021 national runner-up Maddox Johnson. Both sluggers will be looking to repeat their All-Star Week appearances, this time in Seattle.

“I like the Jr. Home Run Derby because it gives me a chance to showcase my skills to the whole United States and maybe even beyond the US,” said Hubbard. “Overall, the experience is what excites me the most—being able to travel across the country to play my favorite game, baseball.”

Having been through it all before, Hubbard knows what highs and lows the competition can bring but recommends all first-timers trust themselves to find success at the plate.

“When I first walked into Dodger Stadium [in 2022], I was in awe of how amazing it all looked,” said Hubbard. “As it closed in on my turn, I focused and prepared for my at-bat. So, as I got in the groove, everything got easier, and I think the championship round was probably the easiest part of the competition.

“Just stay as calm as possible and trust your mechanics and swing. The more anxious and scared you get, the more your mechanics slip away.”

In the months since his win, Hubbard hasn’t stopped practicing to be the best.

“This year, I have trained at the Rangers Youth Academy honing my swing to get my bat to move even faster than it was last year.

“I think the only thing you should really look for from me this year is more home runs,” he said.

Hubbard will compete alongside his fellow Youth Academy athletes on Sunday as they look to reach the Dallas Regional and earn a trip to MLB All-Star Week to compete at T-Mobile Park, home of the Seattle Mariners, in July.

Bob Kendrick inspires the next generation of youth ballplayers

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick visited athletes at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy last Saturday, April 22, as part of the Rangers’ Jackie Robinson Day celebration.

A group of talented student-athletes gathered in the Academy’s Cole Hamels Classrooms to hear from one of baseball’s greatest storytellers in the history of the Negro Leagues and its talented ballplayers whose stories often go untold.

Kendrick used his time at the Academy to captivate the audience with his hour-long presentation that touched on the formation of the Negro Leagues and its museum in Kansas City, Kendrick’s role in preserving Negro Leagues history and the National Baseball Hall of Famers who changed the sport and America for the better when they created a league of their own.

“I want to obviously provide a historical perspective of the Negro Leagues, particularly for African American and Hispanic kids to understand that their roots are firmly entrenched inside the story of the Negro Leagues,” Kendrick said of his presentation. “But the other side of the ledger is helping them identify that it’s okay to dream and to believe in yourself because that is fundamentally what the Negro Leagues taught us.”

Presenting to a young audience who had the ability to write the future of baseball and softball allowed Kendrick to dig deep into his message and challenge athletes to discover and achieve their dreams.

“That’s kind of the message, the ability, the willingness, the encouragement, to dare to dream, and the self-belief,” said Kendrick. “To me, if you have the capacity for both of those, then the opportunities are limitless, and you can see that through the lens of these incredibly talented, courageous athletes, who, as I like to say, forged a glorious history in the amidst an inglorious time in American history.

“They flat out refused to accept the notion that they were unfit to play America’s so-called national pastime, and their love for the game not only changed the game, but it changed our country for the better and I think that is something that resonates with everyone.”

Kendrick pointed out several connections between Negro Leagues athletes and those he presented to on Saturday and the role the Texas Rangers Youth Academy played in helping these athletes accomplish goals on and off the field.

“There’s no greater investment that we can make than in our children than creating safe environments and opportunities for our kids to grow and thrive, and that’s exactly what a facility like this beautiful [Texas Rangers] urban youth baseball academy does and man when you walk into this complex, and you see the amenities that are a part of this amazing complex, if that doesn’t motivate you to want to play I don’t know what will,” he said .

Kendrick is no stranger to MLB Youth Academies and his work is done to benefit communities year-round as he frequently interacts with athletes at the Kanas City Royals Urban Youth Academy, located next door to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

In fact, several Rangers Youth Academy athletes had the opportunity to meet Kendrick in Kansas City as part of the Academy’s annual Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Invitational, presented by Comerica Bank, but having Kendrick join the Rangers Youth Academy athlete on their home turf for the very the first time made his visit even more impactful.

And as an added surprise, Kendrick and the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation gifted everyone a copy of MLB The Show 23, which features a brand-new Negro Leagues storyline, allowing players to immerse themselves in baseball history and continue learning for years to come.

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