Elite Development Academy launches baseball program in Bensenville

Former and current Major League Baseball players will provide their knowledge and assistance at the grand opening of the Elite Development Academy baseball program on October 20-22 at Bo Jackson's Elite Sports facility at 1000 Commerce Court in Bensenville.

The three-day event is designed to address the startling decline in baseball participation in the Black community by introducing youngsters to the game and creating concrete college scholarship opportunities for talented high school prospects.

Despite MLB's unyielding efforts to diversify the sport, Black participation in baseball has plummeted in the past decade. Only 6.2% of the players on MLB's 2023 opening day rosters were Black. College baseball is even worse with only 3.9% of roster spots held by Black players.

Current and former MLB players will be on hand lending their support, knowledge, and experience. Those slated to participate include Luis Alicea, Marlon Anderson, Tim Anderson, John Buck, Ray Burris, Kyle Farnsworth, Ben Ford, Bernard Gilkey, Luis Gonzalez, Charles Johnson, Brian Jordan, Scott Kazmir, Ramiro Mendoza, Tim Redding, Reggie Sanders, Dmitri Young.

They will assist during a weekend that features a Friday Rise 2 Greatness baseball camp for over 350 local elementary school students, followed by an invitation-only combine for college and pro prospects on Saturday and Sunday, and concluding with an instructional camp Sunday afternoon featuring individualized instruction.

"We strongly believe an alternative to the current path to college or professional baseball must be provided for some of the young, elite, multi-sport athletes who are giving up baseball entirely too early," said Bill Bavasi, former general manager of the Anaheim Angels and Seattle Mariners, and executive director of the EDA. "Our goal is to create an inclusive environment where every player feels welcomed and has an equal chance to pursue their passion for baseball at the collegiate or professional level."

The EDA program combines the vision, resources and commitment of The Fox Foundation and Rise 2 Greatness Foundation, with critical local support provided by the Marcus Nettles Project, Black Baseball Media and The Show. Dillard University serves as the EDA's academic partners.

Jerry Ford, founder of Rise 2 Greatness and Perfect Game, expressed his enthusiasm for the program, saying, "We believe that diversity should be celebrated and nurtured in all aspects of life, including sports. We are proud at Rise 2 Greatness to partner on the EDA program which will offer a crucial step toward breaking down barriers and providing a fair chance for every talented athlete to pursue their passion."

The centerpiece of the event will be the combine program, carefully designed by an experienced team of current/former MLB executives, scouts, players and college coaches to assist young, talented, multi-sport athletes across the country who need a little help with potential college scholarship opportunities.

Participants in the combine will engage in batting, fielding, pitching, base running and athletic testing assessment by current/former MLB scouts and college coaches. They will also attend a Q&A session where topics such as college admission standards, financial aid, recruiting protocol, sportsmanship, teamwork, and leadership development will be discussed.

"By supporting The Fox Foundation and Rise 2 Greatness, we can collectively make a significant impact on the lives of these young athletes and inspire them to excel in both academics and athletics," said Dillard University President Dr. Rochelle Ford. "As an HBCU, we are proud to be the academic partner for this initiative that aligns with our mission of promoting diversity and providing opportunities for underserved communities."

For more on the EDA, visit

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.