Shannon Ford

Success permeates all levels of Houston RBI program

City has three teams in tournament for ninth time

Success permeates all levels of Houston RBI program

CINCINNATI -- As the storm rolled in, players from the Houston Astros and Nobu Yamauchi Senior Division of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program played a game of toss combined with tic-tac-toe right on the face of a baseball at Great American Ball Park Wednesday night.

The games were all in good fun, played during the team's final pool-play game of the RBI World Series that resulted in a 2-1 walk-off win for Nobu Yamauchi and a phenomenal showcase of sportsmanship that is at the core of the RBI program.

While this is just the first tournament appearance for the Senior Baseball team from Hilo, Hawaii (Nobu Yamauchi RBI), it marks Houston's third consecutive showing. Much like its big league counterparts, the Astros RBI program has seen success across the board with a team featured in each division of the RBI World Series Tournament.

"A lot of it has to do with the kids that come from the inner city and a lot of it is also the coaching staff that we have," said Astros Junior Team Manager Frank Mora.

The Astros have an entrant in all three divisions -- Senior, Junior and Softball -- for the ninth time, second in RBI World Series history only to Los Angeles, which has done it 11 times.

While the Seniors head into the playoffs holding a 2-1 record, the Juniors will be fighting their way to the top, entering as a No. 3 seed with the lingering memory of being knocked out in the first round last year.

"This year is a lot more competitive," said Houston Junior Jaylon Burrell. "We got kicked out in the first round so we're just here for redemption."

A story of redemption fueled by discipline seemed to be the echoing sentiment across the Junior and Senior Clubs.

"The most important thing is life lessons, the values of baseball," said Mora of off-the-field instruction.

These are the lessons that carry across the Astros RBI fields, which opened in 2010. Since its inception, the Astros have sent 44 teams to the tournament, winning their first title in the same year the academy opened. Players like Jaylon began their baseball experiences within the complex walls as early as age 8 and have developed learnings of time management, discipline, career development and college opportunity.

As for the girls, we'll see them compete in the Softball RBI World Series next week, where they too have their sights set on the championship, just one step in achieving their dreams.

"To see them at the biggest level for baseball, reaching the professionals," said Mora of his hopes for players future. "For the softball [series] we would like to see them go play for Team USA, go to college and further their education."

Shannon Ford is a reporter for Follow her on Twitter @Shannon__Ford. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.