DURHAM, N.C. - USA Baseball and Major League Baseball announced today that the annual Breakthrough Series is expanding in 2016 to five regional locations to showcase a diverse group of more than 300 top high school baseball players to professional scouts and collegiate recruiters, and for the first time ever will include a portion for women's softball.

Activities of the ninth annual Breakthrough Series will begin in Tempe, Arizona (January 16th-18th) at Tempe Diablo Minor League Complex, the Spring Training Home of the Los Angeles Angels. Additional Breakthrough Series events will be held throughout June and July at the four additional regional locations, including the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio (June 7th-9th); the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy (SOFTBALL ONLY - June 14th-15th); Pirate City, the Spring Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, in Bradenton, Florida (June 21st-23rd); and the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina (June 28th-30th).

The Breakthrough Series is expecting to feature more than 300 baseball and softball prospects, many of whom will be African-American, and is a joint effort by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball to promote baseball as a viable collegiate and professional option for youth from urban and underserved communities. The event is completely cost-free for participants, who are selected by invitation only.

"Providing opportunities for young people to excel and advance within our sport is a central priority for Major League Baseball," said Tony Reagins, MLB Senior Vice President of Youth Programs. "The Breakthrough Series is a significant component of our outreach strategy, and we are happy not only to expand the amount of locations for this year's event, but also to include women's softball for the first time ever. Together with USA Baseball and a host of former Major Leaguers, we are looking forward to giving these ballplayers the chance to demonstrate their talents and to be recognized for the next levels of our game."

Prospects participating in the 2016 Breakthrough Series will be recommended by Major League Baseball, USA Baseball, MLB Urban Youth Academies, the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, the MLB Scouting Bureau and Major League Clubs. Activities for the participants will include a Workout Day and exhibition games at each location. Each Breakthrough Series event will include coaching and instruction from former Major and Minor League players and coaches. Coaches for the Tempe Breakthrough Series are scheduled to include Lou Collier, Eric Davis, Bob Didier, Tom "Flash" Gordon, Marquis Grissom, Jerry Manuel, Darrell Miller, Darren Oliver, Rob Picciolo, Reggie Waller and Dmitri Young.

In addition to the on-field action, participants will receive daily presentations from former Major Leaguers, scouts, college administrators, umpires and other industry professionals. The focus of these presentations will be to prepare the prospects for the collegiate and professional recruiting processes and offer information about alternative careers within the baseball industry. As in previous years, a large contingent of college recruiters and professional scouts are expected to attend and evaluate players who demonstrate potential, but may not have had the opportunity for exposure through other summer events.

"USA Baseball is excited to partner with Major League Baseball on the Breakthrough Series for the ninth consecutive year," said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball's Executive Director/CEO. "This event is a result of USA Baseball's and MLB's mission to provide great exposure and opportunity for athletes from urban areas and expand the game of baseball throughout the United States at all levels. With five sites scheduled for 2016, the positive impact on these athletes continues to grow."

Approximately 130 previous participants of the Breakthrough Series have been selected in the MLB Draft, including 30 in 2015 - the most-ever for Breakthrough Series alumni in any one draft. Additionally, participants in the 2015 Breakthrough Series committed to collegiate baseball programs such as Arizona State, University of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, University of Nevada, USC, Vanderbilt and more.

In past years, the Breakthrough Series was annually held in one location while serving approximately 60 to 80 players. Established in 2008, the Breakthrough Series previously has been held at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, California (2008-2009); USA Baseball's National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina (2010-2012); at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, and the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy in Houston, Texas (2013); and multiple locations in 2014 and 2015.