Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. has been named Special Advisor to the Commissioner on youth programs and outreach, Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. announced today during the annual Baseball Winter Meetings.
Ripken will advise the Commissioner and Major League Baseball's Youth Programs Department regarding strategies and initiatives designed to grow the sport of baseball and softball at the amateur and youth levels. A particular focus will be placed on ways to provide access to quality playing opportunities for children in underserved communities.
"Major League Baseball is thrilled to appoint Cal Ripken, Jr., a legend of our game and an expert in the youth space, to this new role, which will help us further address our most significant goal," Commissioner Manfred said. "Cal is uniquely qualified to represent our game as we build more bridges to amateur baseball and softball organizations, and we plan to tap into his knowledge and experience extensively."
Ripken said: "I am thrilled to take on this new role with Major League Baseball and Commissioner Manfred. Since retirement our focus has been to grow the game at the grassroots level, teach kids the right way to play and make it fun for them. MLB and I have shared this passion, and I look forward to working with all of the youth baseball and softball organizations, as well as the Major League Clubs, to get more athletes from all walks of life enjoying the game that I love so much."
Ripken will serve as a member of the MLB Youth Programs Advisory Committee, which consists of Club Presidents, General Managers, Commissioner's Office staff and USA Baseball. The purpose of the Committee is to evaluate and improve the quality of existing programs and identify new programs that can grow the sport. He also will represent MLB at amateur baseball events and other public appearances.
Ripken's appointment marks another milestone in MLB's ongoing commitment to reaching young people through baseball and softball. Earlier this year, MLB and USA Baseball launched "PLAY BALL," a new initiative to encourage widespread participation in all forms of baseball and softball activities among all age groups, especially youth. For the past 25 years, MLB has administered the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, which currently reaches more than 230,000 boys and girls throughout the U.S. and in Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Curaçao. Since 2006, young people have had the opportunity to receive free, year-round baseball and softball instruction, as well as other educational and baseball vocational services, through the MLB Urban Youth Academy network. There are five operational MLB Urban Youth Academies in the U.S., in Cincinnati (Ohio), Compton (California), Houston (Texas), New Orleans (Louisiana) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), with three additional facilities under development in Dallas (Texas), Kansas City (Missouri) and San Francisco (California). Additionally, the Washington Nationals recently established their own Youth Baseball Academy in Washington, D.C.
In July, MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced a joint youth development initiative to support key baseball and softball programs designed to improve access to the sport across the U.S. and Canada. MLB and the MLBPA also jointly operate the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, which promotes the growth of youth baseball and softball throughout the world by awarding grants to support field renovation and construction projects, equipment and uniform purchases, coaches training material and other selected program expenses.
Ripken oversees Ripken Baseball and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. Ripken Baseball runs youth baseball and softball programs and tournaments across the country and at three Ripken Experience complexes in Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Foundation uses baseball-based programs as a hook to engage young people in underserved communities. In addition, they have built over fifty Youth Development Parks across the country, multi-purpose fields in areas of need that give kids safe places to play.