Dodgers ink Youth Academy player

The Dodgers have reaped one of the many benefits -- and likely just one of more to come -- from the Urban Youth Academy. Lyndon Poole became the first player signed out of the five-month-old UYA after he first caught scouts' attention with his speed.

Poole caught the attention of scouts Gerric Waller, Calvin Jones and Bobby Darwin after just 39 at-bats at the Compton-based academy. The three scouts were successful at signing the young player with the Dodgers earlier this week.

"When he stepped on the field, grabbed a bat or glove, you saw that he had the tools that merited an opportunity at the next level," said Waller, who had previously seen Poole play in the San Diego area.

The UYA, a project spearheaded by Major League Baseball executives, is the first of its kind. Located on 10 acres behind Compton Community College, the academy provides inner-city youth the opportunity to practice and develop their skills at the new facility at no cost. The academy, which opened in February, also offers seminars on topics ranging from sports journalism to sports medicine.

Aside from providing young baseball players with free instruction, the Urban Youth Academy provides organizations with a new place to scout. The Dodgers are the first to turn to the academy and sign a player.

Poole, who spent the last two seasons at Palomar Junior College outside San Diego, first visited the UYA in June during a pre-draft workout for the Houston Astros.

Poole went undrafted, but he showed no sign of discouragement by attending a UYA-hosted Major League Scouting Bureau tryout camp. That same day, he was selected to play in the 19-and-under tournament, and Poole has been at the academy since.

Jones would later be the one to call and congratulate an ecstatic Poole, but weeks before, Jones had stopped by his old hometown of Compton in time to watch Poole play. According to Jones, Poole must have been at the right place at the right time as he caught Jones' eye with his athletic Eric Davis-type body.

It wasn't until Poole showcased his defensive skills and speedy legs that the Dodgers were sure the outfielder had Major League potential. Poole jumped off a fence in the outfield to make a catch and then ran the 60-yard dash in 6.36 seconds, averaging no more than 6.50.

The 6-foot, 190-pound outfielder hit .306 in 36 at-bats during his sophomore season at Palomar. Poole, who turns 20 later this summer, played 34 games this past spring for the Comets and was 8-for-9 on stolen-base attempts. As a freshman, he was noted as the fastest player on the squad.

According to scouts, Poole has room to develop his approach at the plate, but he could one day see time at the top of the lineup. He could also see time at all three positions in the outfield, though he'll most likely be a center fielder.

"He definitely has the ability to run down balls and close down gaps," Waller said.

Regardless of where Poole finishes his career, he is assured of having a big impact. Jones, an inner-city child himself, considers the 19-year-old a pioneer player who could inspire other youth and scouts to visit the UYA. As the first signee out of the academy, many eyes will be on Poole -- particularly from those who are hoping to follow in his footsteps.

"To take one out of there is like striking a match in a room full of fumes," Jones said. "Hopefully it will grow into something bigger."

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