Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI)
History of RBI
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is entering its 19th season in 2007. Since its inception in 1989, RBI has grown from a local program for boys in South Central Los Angeles to an international campaign encompassing more than 200 cities and as many as 120,000 male and female participants a year.
John Young poses with one of his prized RBI graduates, Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)
John Young, a former Major League Baseball player and scout, developed the concept of RBI to provide disadvantaged youth an opportunity to learn and enjoy the game of baseball. Young grew up in South Central LA at a time when the area developed many professional baseball players. However, by the late 1970s, Young -- who was working as a Major League scout -- noted a significant decrease in the number of skilled athletes emerging from his childhood area.
After visiting inner-city schools and talking to members of the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, Young discovered that the majority of kids quit playing baseball between the ages of 13 and 16. The drop off was due to many factors, including a lack of organization, funding and community support for youth baseball, as well as an overall deterioration of the social climate in many underserved areas. More often than not, kids quit after becoming discouraged by poorly organized baseball programs and enticed by the existence of other activities, including street gangs.
Young decided that the best way to revive baseball in South Central LA would be to introduce a comprehensive youth baseball program for 13- to 16-year-olds. This program would not only encourage participation in baseball and expand the pool of talented prospects, but, more importantly, it would provide young people with a positive, team-oriented activity that would keep them off the streets while challenging them mentally and physically. RBI News
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Major League Baseball endorsed the RBI concept and provided financial support for the program, as did the Los Angeles Dodgers and the City of Los Angeles. While the youth of Los Angeles were initially a little skeptical -- only 11 showed up for the first tryout -- they gradually began to embrace RBI, and 180 kids participated the first season.
With the baseball component of the program in place, Young worked on the second aspect of his dream -- getting those same kids interested in school. Although Young had developed RBI to replenish the pool of draft-worthy baseball players in South Central LA, he knew most American baseball players that were signed to professional contracts came from college programs. Simply teaching kids to play the game would not be enough.
With that in mind, he set a plan in motion to make RBI both an academic and athletic program. "We wanted to show inner-city kids that baseball is fun and give them the same opportunity as kids in the suburbs," said Young. "Once kids are in the program, we use baseball as the carrot to emphasize academics and community responsibility." With the support of Santa Monica College, Young was able to create the Academy of Excellence Program to supplement the athletic components of RBI.
The Academy of Excellence Program at Santa Monica College assesses the academic status of the Los Angeles RBI participants and provides a Human Development program. The Academy includes individual tutoring, college and SAT preparation courses, as well as goal setting and time management classes. The Bart Giamatti Award, named after the former Commissioner, is given to the Academy's top student-athlete. With the help of then-California Angels President Richard Brown, LA RBI received a grant for the Academy from the Autry Foundation. Former Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown sponsored the Academy of Excellence Program.
Young intended to keep the RBI program local for five years before launching it nationally. However, due to the success of the program in Los Angeles, the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club in St. Louis adopted RBI in 1990, and Kansas City and New York City followed with the formation of RBI programs in 1992. In 1993, RBI programs were established in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami and Philadelphia, while youth baseball programs in Atlanta, Richmond and San Juan also became affiliated with the program. In 1994, RBI expanded to 28 cities and introduced softball leagues. To date, more than 200 leagues in 203 cities worldwide, including all 30 Major League Clubs, have supported the program.
Major League Baseball, which has administered the RBI Program since 1991, serves as the central administrative office for RBI and, from 1993 to 1996, along with Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) provided start-up grants for programs demonstrating financial need. Since the inception of the program, Major League Baseball and its Clubs have designated more than $30 million worth of resources to the RBI program. Former National League President Leonard Coleman was the first Major League Baseball executive to run the RBI program. Thomas C. Brasuell, Vice President of Community Affairs for Major League Baseball, has managed the day-to-day administration of the program since 1994.
In 1993, Major League Baseball and the SGMA sponsored the inaugural RBI World Series. Hosted by the St. Louis Cardinals and the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club, a total of 378 mostly African-American and Latino youth from 12 cities participated. The Atlanta RBI teams swept the finals with the Junior Boys (ages 13 to 15) winning the John Young trophy, named for Young, and the Senior Boys (ages 16 to 18) taking home the Larry Doby Trophy, named for Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League.
In 1994, teams representing 10 U.S. cities, the Czech Republic and Puerto Rico participated in the second RBI World Series, which was hosted by the California Angels. Puerto Rico captured both the Junior and Senior Division crowns.
The 1995 RBI World Series, hosted by the Philadelphia Phillies, saw the Atlanta and Los Angeles RBI teams win Junior and Senior titles, respectively. In addition, the teams from Cleveland, Detroit, Louisville, Newark, New Haven, New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia competed in the first-ever RBI Girls Softball championships, with Newark winning the inaugural title.
The Cleveland Indians hosted the fourth RBI World Series in 1996. Puerto Rico won titles in all three divisions. The Colorado Rockies hosted the fifth RBI World Series in 1997. Miami won the Junior Boys title; the Girls Softball crown went to St. Petersburg, Fla. and Puerto Rico successfully defended the Senior Boys title.
In 1998, the RBI World Series expanded to 30 teams and moved to the Disney's Wide World of Sports complex just outside of Orlando, Fla. That year, titles were captured by San Juan (Junior Boys), Atlanta (Senior Boys) and Denver (Girls Softball). In the 1999 RBI World Series at Disney, San Juan retained the Junior Boys title and captured the Senior Boys title, while Miami became the fifth different Girls Softball champion in as many years. In 2000, Los Angeles RBI became the second program to win titles in all three divisions. In 2001, LA successfully defended its Junior title, while Tampa and Atlanta won the Senior and Girls championships, respectively.
In 2002, Major League Baseball reverted to the original format in which the RBI World Series is hosted by the Major League Baseball Club which will host the All-Star Game the following year. The Clubs provided support for the RBI World Series, including use of their stadium for various RBI-related activities. The Chicago White Sox hosted the RBI World Series' 10th Anniversary and the Boys Championship games were played at U.S. Cellular Field. Atlanta became the first Girls champion to repeat, and also captured the Junior Boys title, while LA won the Senior Boys title.
In 2003 the RBI World Series shifted to Houston, site of the 2004 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and Minute Maid Park was the site of the Boys Championship games in each division, as well as the Girls RBI Workout Day. The Atlanta girls won an unprecedented third title while LA successfully defended the Senior Boys title and captured the Junior Boys championship.
In 2004, the RBI World Series was held in Detroit, Mich., home of the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Comerica Park was the site of the Boys Championship games in each division. The Atlanta girls won an astounding fourth consecutive title while Miami captured the Senior Boys title and Puerto Rico took home the Junior Boys championship. Multimedia
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Pittsburgh, Penn., the site of the 2006 All-Star Game, was home of the 2005 RBI World Series. The Los Angeles Junior Boys captured the LA program's fourth RBI Junior Boys title while the LA Senior Boys took home the fifth title in the history of the LA Senior Boys program. On the Girls side, pitcher Tiffany Johnson threw a complete game no-hitter to lead Atlanta to its unprecedented fifth consecutive RBI World Series Girls Softball title.
In 2006, the RBI World Series moved to the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton, CA. The Detroit Junior Boys became the first cold weather team ever to win an RBI World Series title and the LA Senior Boys successfully defended their championship and secured the sixth title in the history of their Senior Boys program. Once again in the Girls division, Atlanta RBI won a remarkable sixth straight RBI World Series Girls Softball championship.
The 2007 RBI World Series will return to the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy on August 7-18.
A large component of the partnership established in early 1997 between Major League Baseball and its official charity, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), was the merger and expansion of youth baseball and softball programs conducted separately by the two organizations. Off the field, local leagues also teach RBI players life skills through Quick SMART! -- a condensed, easy-to-use version of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's award-winning SMART (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) Moves program. Developed for RBI, Quick SMART! addresses the issues of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and HIV/AIDS prevention and education for 13- to 18-year-olds.
RBI leagues also are provided with a community version of Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life; a character education program based on the values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson. It is designed to teach children the values and traits they need to deal with barriers, obstacles and challenges in their lives. Leagues also motivate participants to stay in school and pursue post-secondary education, and school attendance/performance is a requirement for joining and remaining on many RBI teams. RBI has been embraced in so many communities because it teaches kids that being a success in life takes more than succeeding on the ballfield -- it also means succeeding in the classroom and in the community.
Since 1998, Major League Baseball has fielded a national RBI team that has participated in the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars and its predecessor, the National Amateur All-Star Baseball Tournament (NAABT). The USA Baseball Tournament of Stars, held each June, showcases the top 16- to 18-year-old players from (in addition to RBI), the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), American Legion, Babe Ruth Baseball, Dixie Baseball, National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF), PONY baseball, and at - large teams from USA Baseball, the governing body of amateur baseball.
"The RBI program has many benefits," said former New York Yankee and ESPN broadcaster Roberto Clemente Jr., who founded the Pittsburgh RBI program and is involved with the San Juan program. "It keeps kids out of trouble and off the streets, while at the same time teaching them to stay in school. They earn self-esteem and self-respect. The educational components help them realize their potential and work toward receiving college scholarships based not only on athletics, but academics."
Meanwhile, John Young -- the "father of RBI"-- continues to be amazed by the success his program has achieved in just seven years. "It's like a child to me," he said. "To see the magnitude of RBI -- what it has grown into -- is unbelievable. It's like a dream come true."