Major League Baseball announced today the launch of the inaugural Jr. RBI Classic Showcases, which will be held in Los Angeles (May 24-26), co-hosted by the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, and Houston (May 31-June 1), co-hosted by the Houston Astros. These events, which will be held in each city's respective MLB Urban Youth Academy, mark the first competitive element of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program's Jr. RBI playing divisions. The Jr. RBI playing divisions (ages 5 to 12), which are designed to focus on teaching the fundamentals and highlighting the fun of playing baseball and softball, serve as feeder programs for the age 13-18 baseball and softball divisions of the overall RBI program.
"The Jr. RBI playing divisions are the largest growing sector of the RBI program, so, it is important for MLB to expand opportunities and offer participants a memorable experience," said Tom Brasuell, MLB Vice President of Community Affairs. "The new Jr. RBI Classic Showcases will provide enhanced playing opportunities and showcase some terrific young talent, and we thank the Dodgers Foundation and the Astros for co-hosting these inaugural events."
In addition to tournament play, Major League Baseball is offering the RBI participants the opportunity to stay on a local college campus, with the intention of inspiring them through the experience of "campus life."
The Los Angeles Jr. RBI Classic Showcase will begin on Saturday, May 24th and will last through Monday, May 26th, with all games being played at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. The participating teams are Dodgers RBI (consisting of three separate teams from the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Boys & Girls Club of Venice and Los Angeles Recreation and Parks), Angels RBI (Anaheim, CA) and San Diego Padres RBI (San Diego, CA). All teams will stay on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC). The event will launch with the Dodgers providing opening remarks and a clinic with all teams on Friday, May 23rd at Dodger Stadium. Bank of America, the official bank of Major League Baseball and Gold Sponsor of Dodgers RBI, will provide volunteers to help with the clinic.
The Houston Jr. RBI Classic Showcase will begin on Saturday, May 31st and will last through Sunday, June 1st, with all games being played at the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park. The participating teams are Astros RBI (Houston, TX), Louisiana Youth Baseball RBI (Baton Rouge, LA), New Orleans Recreation Department RBI (New Orleans, LA) and Texas Rangers RBI (Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington, TX). All teams will stay on the campus of Texas Southern University. Additionally, all players and coaches will attend Major League Baseball's Civil Rights Game, which will be played between the Houston Astros and the Baltimore Orioles at Minute Maid Park on Friday, May 30th. The game will air nationally on MLB Network and will be called by MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian, Harold Reynolds and Sam Ryan. The Civil Rights Game and its ancillary activities are a series of events developed by MLB to pay tribute to those who fought on and off the field for equal rights for all Americans.
The RBI program has provided a path for many players to enter the college and professional game. RBI alumni on MLB rosters during the 2014 regular season include: Michael Bourn (Cleveland Indians), Carl Crawford (Los Angeles Dodgers), Coco Crisp (Oakland Athletics), Yovani Gallardo (Milwaukee Brewers), James Loney (Tampa Bay Rays), Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles), James McDonald (Chicago Cubs), Anthony Rendon (Washington Nationals), CC Sabathia (New York Yankees), Tyler Skaggs (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Justin Upton (Atlanta Braves) and Chris Young (New York Mets), among others. Dominic Smith (BGC of Venice RBI - '09/'10), J.P. Crawford (BGC of Venice RBI - '09), Carl Crawford (Houston RBI - '97), James Loney (Houston RBI - '99), James McDonald (LA RBI - '02), Coco Crisp (LA RBI - '95, '96) and Yovani Gallardo (Fort Worth RBI - '03) have each played in the RBI World Series.
More than 200 RBI participants have been drafted by MLB Clubs throughout the program's 26-year history, and many others were given the opportunity for higher education through baseball and softball scholarships. Fifteen alumni from the RBI program were selected in the 2013 MLB Player Draft, including New York Mets first round pick Dominic Smith (11th overall) and Philadelphia Phillies first round pick J.P. Crawford (16th overall), who are both alumni of the Boys & Girls Club of Venice RBI program and the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
The RBI program is administered by Major League Baseball and is designed to give young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball, encourage academic achievement and success, and teach the value of teamwork and other important life lessons. RBI currently serves more than 220,000 young men and women in over 300 programs established in approximately 200 cities worldwide. MLB and its Clubs have designated more than $30 million worth of resources to the RBI program, and all 30 Clubs support RBI leagues. For more information about the RBI program, please visit MLB.com/rbi.
The MLB Urban Youth Academies in Compton and Houston operate on a year-round basis, offering free baseball and softball instruction, as well as various clinics for youth throughout Southern California and Houston. Each facility features multiple fields, including a show field with scoreboard, grandstand, seating, dugouts and lights, as well as indoor components for training and practice. Additionally, Academies offer educational and baseball vocation programming, including tutoring, clinics and free seminars on umpiring, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics, and athletic sports training. "Community Days," scouting events and other free programs are additional activities that take place annually at the Academy. MLB also established and is operating the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy at Wesley Barrow Stadium, and has announced plans to build academies in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hialeah, Florida, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For more information about MLB Urban Youth Academies, please visit MLB.com/urbanyouthacademy.
Dodgers RBI is a comprehensive, urban youth baseball program for boys and girls, ages 5-18. Working together with local organizations, parents and volunteers, Dodgers RBI currently offers 2,400 youth the opportunity to learn and enjoy the games of baseball and softball with special emphasis on education, recreation and healthy habits for young people. Dodgers RBI is a cornerstone program of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF), the official charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers. LADF provides uniforms and equipment, recruitment assistance, cash grants and education/health resources to all teams. Additionally, Dodgers RBI will provide resources to ensure increased participation by youth ages 13-18 and place special emphasis on African- Americans. Dodgers RBI is part of MLB's RBI program.
The newly MLB-chartered league in Houston, named Astros RBI, is being funded by The Astros Foundation, the official team charity, and will be run by the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy staff. Astros RBI will launch this spring, with games and tournaments in June and July. The league will include teams in four divisions: 18-and-under girls softball, 11-12 boys baseball, 13-15 boys baseball and 16-18 boys baseball. The Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park, which is on the north side of Houston, operates on a year-round basis and hosts daily baseball and softball instruction, camps, clinics and other activities for free for young people ages 7-17. In addition to the new Astros RBI program, the Urban Youth Academy staff also provide mentoring, leadership development and assistance with the college application process.