LEESBURG, Va. -- Since 1992, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have worked in concert to run the Rookie Career Development Program. The 27th edition of the RCDP, designed to help up-and-coming big leaguers with off-the-field issues like media training and finances, wrapped up on Sunday, and like with every program, there's bound to be big league contributors from this group starting with the upcoming season.
At last year's program, National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger was among the many attendees who saw a lot of big league time in 2017, so it's important to pay attention to who is at this year's event, and every organization sends some of their top prospects here annually. There were 20 members off MLB Pipeline's current Top 100 prospects list in attendance.
For the players invited, coming to the RCDP not only gives them useful information to help them further their careers, it's a sign their organizations see a big league future for them.
"It meant a lot," Giants No. 2 prospect Tyler Beede said about receiving the invite. "I know how prestigious this is. I know how much you can learn from being here, the knowledge that they bring in on the panels, on discussions for these meetings. It's great, just to be a sponge, to learn things, implement them into my career, on and off the field. It's been awesome and I've learned so much while I've been here."
Everything kicks off on Thursday with a full day of sessions for Latino players, giving them an opportunity to have breakout sessions of their own before the rest of the players arrive.
"Before I got the call to come to the Rookie Career Development Program, I didn't know anything about it," Cubs No. 3 prospect Adbert Alzolay said after the first day of the program had concluded. "Then I talked to Gleyber Torres and he was explaining to me about this opportunity. He said it's going to be a good opportunity for you because you're going to learn a lot about how to be in the big leagues your first year, how to administer your money. I think it's going to be a very interesting two more days here."
The first activity for the entire group was a trip into Washington, D.C. Braving the frigid temperatures, this year's crop was treated to a tour and dinner at the Capitol Building, with a visit and speech from North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp.
On Friday, the full program, with approximately 100 players, began in earnest. As usual, a troupe from Second City was on hand to help the players role play and have fun with sticky situations off the field and in the clubhouse that can often trip up a young player as he tries to establish himself in the big leagues.
Players get a great deal out of the media training led by Lisa Levine, undoubtedly valuing her tips about messaging and interviewing going forward. There are also important breakout sessions, giving players the opportunity to meet in smaller groups with former players brought in by the Players Association. Getting to pick the brains of former big leaguers like Jeff Reboulet, Jeffrey Hammonds and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield is truly hard to quantify.
"I had heard about it from a couple of guys I had played with before," said White Sox No. 14 prospect Micker Adolfo. "They told me it was a really good program. When the White Sox selected me to come here, I was very honored. I think it's going to be very helpful because I'm learning a lot of things that I think are going to come in handy in the future."