Rays top-ten prospect Xavier Edwards will be hosting his third annual free baseball camp later this month, a program he’s sponsored ever since he was drafted in June of 2018 by the Padres.
The XE9 Baseball Camp was established to give back to the community and serve minority populations that have not had much access to the great game of baseball.
The camp takes place every December at Xavier’s old high school, North Broward Prep, and has had a number of current and former MLB players take part in the camp and serve as instructors each year.
The event will be sponsored in part by Gatorade in 2020, and feature grab bags from Adidas. The Rays have donated signed pictures of players and manager Kevin Cash, and additional autographed memorabilia will be provided by Kevin Kiermaier. In 2019 the Tampa Bay Rays donated hats for the camp’s attendees after acquiring Edwards from the Padres, and promised additional swag (e.g. team branded water bottles) for this year’s event.
Broward Highschool Baseball has a full write up on the event. Here are some excerpts, with quotes from Edwards on the camp, the big leaguers involved, and the importance of reaching out to minority communities:
XE9 takes place every December at North Broward Prep, and this year it will be held on December 28th and 29th from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Participants are encouraged to arrive about an hour early for registration. Players from all the highest levels of the game are on hand to offer instruction and share their love of baseball with the next generation of players.
“It is really humbling to do,” Xavier Edwards said. “Guys give back and it is cool to be able to see the young kids. You look back and you remember when you were that little, when I was that age, and it was so much fun playing baseball. It’s super exciting and it is definitely humbling just to be able to help. We’re not charging anything and there are some prizes also from the instruction. We’re just having a good time with the kids and teaching them a thing or two, if that happens.”
Young ball players of all sexes and ages are provided with a rare chance to educate and enhance their baseball skills and knowledge. The environment is pressure-free and focused on instruction, education and a fair share of inspiration. Instructors donate their time freely, and they are just as excited to spend time with the children.
“We have a lot of instructors from the Major League and Minor Leagues, and also some Big League guys,” Xavier said. “We go through a lot of infield work, also some outfield, catching, hitting and pitching stuff, so we pretty much go throughout the whole field. We hit on all of the baseball aspects throughout the two days, where we go through the basics and some more advanced stuff. It’s good for the kids to soak it all in and to be around those kind of professional players.”
For many of these kids, such a dream seems beyond comprehension. The camp is their first and only chance to take part in something like this, which typically is beyond what their family can afford to pay for. It also provides minorities a chance to be influenced by role models from within their same backgrounds, to remind them that it is possible that someday they may play in the pros too.
“In baseball the numbers for minority players is not very high at all, I don’t even think it is above 10% of Major League players are African-American minorities. It is huge just to see all the different faces from all the ages and sizes that are the camp, and it is good for the game of baseball just to motivate kids to play baseball,” Xavier said. “I think it is important for kids of color to see that there is another kid who is from their area that is of color who wore the same suit they are wearing. It is something that seems so unobtainable for kids of color in our area, or any area, period. It is just a small step in the right direction, but definitely a necessary step.”
Some of the pro guys serving will be the Atlanta Braves’ Touki Toussaint, who returns for his second year and who played locally at the former Coral Springs Christian Academy; the Cleveland Indians’ Triston McKenzie, who played for Royal Palm Beach, and Devon Travis, who played four Major League seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays after spending his high school days playing at Palm Beach Central.
“Mike Fiers usually makes an appearance each year just to say a few words, and he likes getting around the kids,” Xavier added.
Xavier Edwards went on MLB Network to discuss the camp and his career thus far, and you can find that interview (as well as Edwards workout videos) here:
Xavier Edwards is the only Rays player known to be hosting a baseball camp of this kind.