Astros' youth baseball initiatives go beyond the field

Urban Youth Academy, RBI program offer free instruction

Astros' youth baseball initiatives go beyond the field

HOUSTON -- The Astros have long had a commitment to youth baseball in the Houston area, something that's even blossomed in recent years with the opening of the Houston Astros Urban Youth Academy on the city's north side.

In addition to the Urban Youth Academy, Astros RBI is a free baseball and softball program funded by the Astros Foundation. What's more, the Astros Community Leaders program has renovated 18 youth fields in seven parks around the area in the past couple of years.

"We are very proud of the Astros RBI program and the Astros Urban Youth Academy," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "The RBI program is a continuation of our efforts at the Academy, where we provide free baseball and softball instruction. Our focus of developing skills on the field helps to instill important life skills such as teamwork, discipline, dedication and respect for others."

Astros RBI is holding tryouts for its summer baseball and softball leagues in the upcoming weeks at the Urban Youth Academy. Astros RBI includes teams in three divisions: junior baseball (boys 13-15), senior baseball (boys 16-18) and senior softball (girls 13-18). Baseball tryouts are scheduled for May 2, 9 and 16, and softball tryouts are scheduled for May 9 and 16.

In 2014, nearly 300 youth baseball and softball players participated in the Astros RBI program. The senior boys' baseball and senior girls' softball teams were Southwest Regional champions, and both went on to play in the MLB RBI World Series. The 2015 Astros RBI season will begin play on June 1.

"The success of the 2014 Astros RBI season clearly demonstrates the success of our efforts at the Astros Urban Youth Academy," said Twila Carter, the Astros' executive director of community relations and the Astros Foundation. "The Astros Foundation is keenly focused on increasing opportunities in youth baseball and softball by continuing to offer this type of free programming at the UYA. We look forward to another successful season of Astros RBI baseball and softball."

In March, former Astros player Jose Cruz and other Astros alumni were on hand at several youth parks to kick off the 2015 Little League season. As part of the April 15 Jackie Robinson Day celebration, kids from the Urban Youth Academy took the field with the Astros.

The Urban Youth Academy has experienced instructors and hosts baseball and softball camps, clinics and other activities year-round, free of charge, to players ages 7 to 17. In addition to the new Astros RBI program, the UYA staff will also provide mentoring, leadership development and assistance with the college application process.

Additionally, the Astros Community Leaders program is providing over 2,000 uniforms and Joe Morgan Swing Trainers to all of the leagues playing on Community Leaders fields this season.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.