KANSAS CITY -- The participants in the fourth annual Jr. RBI Classic likely won't forget the experiences that went along with playing in the host city for the 2012 All-Star Game.
These players visited Kauffman Stadium, most of them for the first time. They toured the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. They ran through a skills clinic on the lush new field at Satchel Paige Memorial Park.
But to Cle Ross, the executive director of the Kansas City, Kan., RBI program, the most valuable experience of the Classic wasn't any of those. Ross was most thankful for the on-campus tour of Rockhurst University, where the 11- and 12-year-olds stayed for the weekend.
"Our ultimate goal -- if we get some kids that make it to the Minor Leagues or the big leagues, we'll be appreciative of that -- but the ultimate goal is to lead our kids into college," Ross said.
The Kansas City team finished off the seven-game round-robin tournament on Monday with a game against a team from Columbia, Tenn., at Cleveland Park. Ross said this weekend's baseball experience can definitely serve as motivation for the players to refine their skills and possibly enhance their futures.
"We want to let our kids know that you can use baseball as a tool to get you through high school and get yourself a college scholarship," Ross said. "At that point, once you get your degree, you can go ahead and be ready for the world."
In the middle of Monday's session, five-time All-Star Joe Carter showed up at Cleveland Park and signed autographs. His Major League career ended a couple years before any of the players in the Classic were born. Carter, 52, said he hoped Google and YouTube could help the kids figure out who he was.
He said he's involved in youth baseball because he's still a "big kid," and loves encouraging kids to follow their dreams, either in baseball or another field. Walking around the Cleveland Park facility brought up memories of his youth baseball days.
Carter, who hit a walk-off home run to win the 1993 World Series for Toronto, is a success story for aspiring big leaguers. Even if the kids' Major League dreams come up short, the Jr. RBI Classic might be one of the experiences that propel the kids to dream big.
"I think several of these kids, six years from now, will be on college baseball teams," Ross said. "And if not, they'll at least be attending college."
Clark Goble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.