RBI World Series Comes to the Metroplex
In the beginning baseball was enjoyed in cities across America. All of the professional teams played in big cities so all of it’s early fans lived in big cites too. Wanting to emulate the professionals, kids played in those days in the neighborhood streets. An old broom handle (or “stick”) and a makeshift ball were all the equipment needed, and things like manhole covers and fire hydrants were used for bases. A bunch of kids with nicknames like Stretch, Dinky and Moon Pie would gather to play between the tall buildings until their parents called them home to do their chores. Cars in those days weren’t as powerful or as plentiful and drivers had a lot more patience. Sometimes a street was actually shutdown until an at bat could be completed.
Slowly things changed and stick ball became less and less popular. The streets became too busy, the drivers became too impatient, the equipment became too important and baseball disappeared from the the inner city. By the late 1980’s the lack of baseball in the inner cities of America had reached epidemic proportions.
In 1989 a scout for the Detroit Tigers and former major league player, John Young, noticed a lack of African American prospects in baseball at all levels. Only 4% of the players taken in the June Draft of 1986 were African American. So with the help of then Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, Young started RBI, short for “Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities.” With just $50,000 dollars of seed money from the city of Los Angeles, Young organized a league of twelve teams of 13 and 14 year old players.
Major League Baseball took over the administration and funding of the program in 1991 and a suddenly baseball was being played in the inner cities again. RBI now has a budget of $30,000,000. That is MLB literally putting it’s money where it’s mouth is. They aren’t just talking about reviving baseball in the inner cities, MLB is reviving baseball in inner cities.
There are 300 kids here in the Metroplex this week participating in the RBI World Series. That’s 300 kids from cities like Detroit, Miami and Caracas, Venezuela who are here representing their city and playing the great game. 300 kids who have the potential to be the next great major leaguer. Alumni of the RBI program include Coco Crisp, Jimmy Rollins, the Upton brothers, CC Sabathia and Manny Machado just to name a few.
I emceed a luncheon to kick off this weekend of baseball on Wednesday at the Gaylord Texan. Bud Selig was the keynote speaker. He was here to welcome these kids and show the continuing commitment to this wonderful program. The Texas Rangers are the host club for the weekend and the championship games will be played at Globe Life Park on Monday morning.
Do yourself a favor go on out to Arlington on Monday morning, it’s free and while you probably won’t see anyone named Stretch, Dinky or Moon Pie, you might see the next CC, Manny or Coco.