Jr. RBI players get All-Star experience

Jr. RBI players get All-Star experience

Jr. RBI players get All-Star experience
KANSAS CITY -- The 12 youth baseball and softball teams that converged on Kansas City on Thursday for the fourth annual Jr. RBI Classic will get plenty of time on the diamond this weekend.

Since Kansas City is home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the kids should also prepare for a history lesson.

The 11- and 12-year-olds participating in the non-competitive tournament, conducted by the Junior Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities Program, will tour the museum on Monday afternoon after six games of baseball or softball from Friday to Monday.

Jr. RBI, which hosts divisions for players ages 5-12, is the feeder program for RBI, which hosts divisions for players ages 13-18. Over 95,000 kids will participate in Jr. RBI programs in 2012. The goal of the organization is to make baseball and softball opportunities available for underserved youth.

Each team in the Classic will wear a patch of a different Negro League team on its jerseys. On Monday, when the players tour the museum, the tour guides will tell each team specifics about its Negro League counterpart.

Major League Baseball RBI director David James said the rich history of the museum should make for a memorable experience for the kids.

"One of the things that we try to do with the Classic, it's a non-competitive tournament," James said. "It's all about the experience, the opportunity."

The museum tour isn't the only activity on the schedule.

Players will also participate in FanFest Legends Clinics and attend Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, the XM All-Star Futures Game, the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball game and the State Farm Home Run Derby. After the tournament's Opening Ceremony at Satchel Paige Stadium on Friday night, the players will go through a skills clinic hosted by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

The Classic is in its fourth year, and James said things are running rather smoothly. The teams were set to arrive in Kansas City and move into their dormitories at Rockhurst University on Thursday afternoon.

"It should be a good event," James said. "We like the diversity of the different parts of the country that the teams and the leagues are representing."

Eight baseball teams and four softball teams will play in the tournament, which kicks off with a session of games at 8:30 a.m. Friday. The Toronto Blue Jays Rookie League Jr. RBI program will be the first international league to participate in the event.

James said the national RBI program has been very supportive in the Blue Jays' effort to expand their youth baseball programs.

"We thought the opportunity of bringing a team down from Canada to participate in the event will help their efforts, not just in the Toronto area where these kids are coming from, but it would impact their efforts across Canada," James said.

The baseball teams participating are from Kansas City, Kan., Kansas City, Mo., Toronto, Chicago, Tulsa, New Orleans, Long Beach, Calif., and Columbia, Tenn. They'll play games at Cleveland Park and the Clark-Ketterman Athletic Complex.

The softball teams are from Kansas City, Atlanta, Hoboken, N.J., and Seattle. They'll play games at Cleveland Park and Rockhurst.

James said the Classic is about way more than baseball and softball, though. It's about giving kids new experiences and maybe even changing their futures.

"The fact that we're housing the kids on a college campus, it gets their minds to start thinking about, 'Hey, this is something I could do. Come to college,'" James said.

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