Teams gearing up for start of RBI World Series

Teams gearing up for start of RBI World Series

Teams gearing up for start of RBI World Series
MINNEAPOLIS -- At its core, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities is about using baseball to provide opportunities on and off the field to teens who otherwise would not have them. One of those is the chance to play in front of college and Major League scouts.

After kicking off the baseball portion of the 19th RBI World Series with team pictures and an opening ceremony Wednesday morning at Target Field, the teams headed over to Parade Stadium for their workout day.

"The purpose, again, is to give these kids opportunities to be seen by college scouts and for the senior players, obviously, the opportunity to be viewed by pro scouts to see if there's any opportunities to extend their playing careers," said RBI program director David James.

"We always feel that's an important side of it. If this gives them a chance to be seen by somebody that can get them to the next stage of their playing career, that's our responsibility."

Since RBI was founded in 1989, MLB clubs have drafted more than 185 alumni of the program . Among those are current Major Leaguers like Carl Crawford, Coco Crisp, James Loney, Jimmy Rollins, CC Sabathia, Yovani Gallardo, Justin Upton, James McDonald and Dontrelle Willis.

On hand for Wednesday's workout day were scouts from several teams, including Mark Wilson, who scouts the north central and Canadian regions for the Twins.

Wilson said he expects the number of scouts to increase as games begin Thursday morning and through Sunday's championship games at Target Field.

"First of all, you're trying to identify a physical body and a good athlete," Wilson said. "Then, you're looking at the baseball skills and tools that they have with running, fielding, throwing and hitting.

"You're trying to see as much as you can, and if there's something of interest -- one player that has more ability -- then you're going to try to bear down on him more and go see him play more than once."

The activities during workout day included infield and outfield practice, along with various competitions such as the home-to-home run, the around-the-horn relay, the outfield relay throw, the catcher's throw and the 60-yard dash.

Wilson could not share any specifics about players that he was impressed with, but he did note that there were a few who stood out above the rest.

"There were a lot of guys that ran under 6.8 seconds in the 60, which is really good; there were also some 6.5s and 6.6s, which is outstanding speed, so that was kind of eye-opening," Wilson said. "But it all has to be put together. How do they run? How do they field? How do they throw? Does it all line up?

"There were some players out here that showed some actions with their fielding, a couple outfielders that showed arm strength and proper footwork and a good release, and the same thing with a couple middle infielders and catchers."

But the scouts were not the only ones taking notes Wednesday. As each team took the field, the others kept an eye on them, sizing up the competition.

"There's definitely some talented players, and we do get a kick out of watching the other teams watch them when they take infield," James said. "We're really looking forward to play getting under way [Thursday]. Baseball's a little more competitive than the softball tournament."

At the opening banquet Tuesday night, Twins president Dave St. Peter joked with the players and coaches, telling them he hoped they could bring some luck to his club this week, which lost for the sixth straight time Tuesday.

Before they kick off pool play games Thursday morning, the 16 RBI World Series teams were scheduled to make another trip to Target Field on Wednesday night, to watch the Twins take on the Red Sox.

"It's a shame, but for some of these kids, RBI may be their only opportunity to get to a professional game," James said. "So again, [it's about] providing opportunities for these kids."

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.