"All of us at Major League Baseball are saddened by the loss of John Young, a trailblazer and champion of both professional and youth baseball," Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Monday. "Following a championship collegiate baseball career and a Minor and Major League playing career that spanned from 1969 through 1978, John became the first African-American director of scouting when he was hired by the Detroit Tigers in 1981. He went on to scout for several clubs, including the Marlins, Rangers, Padres and Cubs, signing 21 future Major Leaguers to their first professional contracts. It was in this capacity that he would achieve his most enduring accomplishment -- the founding of the RBI program."
Young grew up in inner-city Los Angeles, and was a first-round Draft choice of the Detroit Tigers in 1969, the 16th player taken overall. His big league career was limited to two games for the Tigers in 1971 in which he was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
But his impact on the game will live on.
Following his player career he joined the Tigers as a Minor League instructor in 1978, became a scout in 1979, and the Tigers scouting director in 1981. He later scouted for the Orioles, Padres, Rangers and Marlins.
It was in 1986, when he was scouting for the Orioles, that he became concerned about the lack of African-American players available in the Draft. He brought it to the attention of Roland Hemond, who was the Orioles general manager, and then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
Ueberroth approached Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who agreed to finance a youth program in Los Angeles. Given a $50,000 grant by the City of Los Angeles, and also funding from the Amateur Athletic Union, Young organized a 12-team league with 180 players who were 13 and 14 years old in 1989. Major League Baseball assumed control of the program in 1991.
Former big league players Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis, who grew up in inner-city Los Angeles, provided significant financial support and man hours in helping add credibility to the program. By 2003, RBI had grown to 300 programs in 200 cities in the United States, Canada and Africa. It now has a Junior Boys division for 13-15 year olds, senior division for 16-18 year olds, Girls Softball for youths up to 18, and in 2009 added a junior RBI program for six to 12 year olds.
"John personally started RBI in 1989 in his home city of Los Angeles with less than 200 young men," Manfred said. "With John's guidance, MLB assumed the operations of the program in 1991, and it has since grown to serve 230,000 young men and women in 200 cities across the United States, Canada, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. The legacy John has left with the RBI program is evident in the impact it has had on young people who have grown to be important contributors to our society as teachers, police officers, doctors, youth coaches and as professional baseball players. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to John's wife Sheryl, their children Dorian, Jon and Tori and their entire family, as well as his many friends throughout our game."
RBI sponsors regional tournaments to determine participants in the RBI World Series, which began in 1993, and has been televised by MLB Network since 2010. RBI also provides college scholarships for players.
RBI alumni include CC Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins, Coco Crisp, Carl Crawford, Justin Upton, Yovani Gallardo. Ricky Romero and Melvin Upton Jr.