The softball players taking part in the 2012 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities World Series were welcomed to the area in style with Monday's opening banquet at Target Field on the eve of tournament play. More than 100 girls ages 19 and under were treated to dinner in the Metropolitan Club at the home of the Minnesota Twins.
They were also treated to hearing from Sharon Robinson, daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson and educational programming consultant for Major League Baseball.
All of the girls will vie for the right to become an RBI World Series champion this week, but Robinson called on them to try to become heroic.
"A champion is hoisted on the shoulders of their fans," Robinson said. "Just think of all these Olympians you're watching right now. At this point, as far as we know right now, they're champions, certainly. But we don't know yet if they're going to be heroes.
"The hero is someone that hoists the people on their shoulders. It's really that next step. Can you do this? Can you be a great talent and still make a difference in your community? Can you be a great talent and still be connected to your family and help your family to grow and be strong?"
Robinson's keynote speech was complemented by words from Kevin Smith, the Twins' executive director of public affairs and executive director of the Twins Community Fund.
It is the second straight year in which Smith has played a significant role in the event as the Twins organization also played host to the 2011 RBI World Series, where Los Angeles RBI claimed the softball championship.
"We as an organization take this opportunity to host the RBI World Series very seriously," Smith said. "You have to feel the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. That will not change. But from our organization's standpoint, it's more than about that. It's more than about the games. This is an honor for us to host this."
The tournament will see its eight participating teams split into two divisions, with Cleveland, Harrisburg, Hoboken (N.J.), and Big Island (Hilo, Hawaii) occupying the American League Central. Meanwhile, Atlanta, the Dominican Republic, Houston and Matthews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club (St. Louis) are slotted in the National League Central. St. Paul's Dunning Sports Complex and Minneapolis' Neiman Sports Complex will play host to a total of 24 games from Tuesday-Thursday, with each team playing each of its divisional foes twice.
The action will pause for a day on Friday as the girls participate in a community service event before play ramps up again with Saturday's Interleague Playoffs. The top seed from each division will play host to the bottom side in the opposite division, while the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds from opposite divisions will be matched up in quarterfinal action. From there, semifinal winners will meet in Sunday's championship game at the University of Minnesota's Jane Sage Cowles Stadium at 2 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on MLB Network on Aug. 17 at noon ET.
As interested as Robinson was in who would capture the 18th RBI Softball title, she was more enthused by the off-the-field potential in the girls she spoke to.
"Good luck, have fun and I'll be following you," Robinson said. "But you're all champions. Now you have to work towards being heroes as well."
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.