"As we launch the 16th annual RBI World Series, it is important to note that these games feature more than just great baseball and softball," said Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. "This year we have been able to recognize and reward the off-field talents of many young athletes through the RBI for RBI scholarship program, funded by Major League Baseball. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate every player and coach who has reached the Series. RBI is a great example of Major League Baseball's commitment to reaching out to and providing boys and girls the opportunity to play the game and improve their lives."
The youngsters will have more going on than just their games. Participating teams have the opportunity to attend Major League games and welcome receptions that will feature guest speakers such as Don Newcombe, the Dodgers' director of community relations; Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson and MLB educational programming consultant; Tom Brasuell, vice president of community affairs for Major League Baseball; Tim Flynn, chairman and CEO, KPMG; Bruce Pfau, vice chair, human resources of KPMG and Princess Palmer, partner for KPMG.
Earlier this year, the "RBI for RBI" Scholarship Fund was created by MLB to provide financial support in the form of scholarships to selected recipients who participate in an RBI league. Six $5,000 "RBI for RBI" scholarships are being awarded to high school seniors. This year's recipients will be recognized on Wednesday evening at the welcome reception of the RBI World Series.
RBI and the RBI World Series are also supported by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which is committed to helping expand and enhance the program. In addition to the more than 250 volunteers who supported this year's RBI regional tournaments, volunteers will assist in facilitating the 2008 RBI World Series.
"Over 1,000 of our employees have served RBI this year, as volunteers and have found working with these youths tremendously rewarding. We are all very proud to contribute to such a worthwhile program," said Flynn. "We salute the regional winners on their achievements and wish them the best of luck in the World Series."
Since it was established in 1989, the RBI program has provided a path for many players to enter the college and professional game. More than 180 RBI participants have been drafted by Major League clubs. Among the RBI alumni currently playing in the Majors are Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay; Coco Crisp of Boston; James Loney of the Dodgers; CC Sabathia of Milwaukee; Justin Upton of Arizona and Jimmy Rollins of Philadelphia.
This year, seven current and former RBI participants were selected in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, including second-round picks Xavier Avery (Baltimore) and Joseph "Jay" Austin (Houston).
"The RBI program was instrumental in my life in many ways," said Crisp. "It helped me to go to college and it was also very important in my baseball development. The RBI program should be commended on the difference it has made in the lives of so many youngsters. I'm proud to be an RBI alumnus."
RBI is one of many MLB initiatives dedicated to enhancing youth participation and interest in baseball and softball. Specifically, RBI is designed to promote interest in the sport, increase the self-esteem of disadvantaged children and encourage kids to stay in school. RBI programs have been started in more than 200 cities worldwide, and annually provide as many as 100,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball and softball.