ARLINGTON -- The Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program held the opening ceremonies banquet for the Softball World Series on Tuesday evening at the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame room at Globe Life Park, welcoming the teams competing from all over the world.
The RBI World Series is the international baseball and softball championship tournament of the RBI program, which currently serves more than 230,000 young men and women worldwide, is administered by Major League Baseball and gives young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball, while also encouraging academic achievement and teaches the values of teamwork and important life lessons.
Competing in this year's RBI Softball World Series are teams from Cleveland; Harrisburg, Pa.; Hoboken, N.J.; Atlanta; the Dominican Republic; Minnesota; Houston; and Hilo, Hawaii. Games begin Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET. The championship will be played Sunday at 11 a.m.
Major League Baseball rewarded scholarships of $20,000 to four members of the softball RBI program, while also having Sharon Robinson -- daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson -- recognize one winner from her "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life" essay contest.
"The softball portion is just as important as what we do for the baseball side, and in some arguments you can make the case these young ladies don't have the opportunities to pursue a professional career, so it's even more important that we provide access and resources that would allow them to pursue an education and other resources to be major league citizens," said David James, senior director of RBI.
The objective of the Breaking Barriers essay is to have the young athletes write about an experience where they had to overcome adversity, just like Jackie Robinson did in breaking baseball's color barrier.
This year's winner of the Breaking Barriers essay was Ashley Mrutu from Minnesota Twins RBI. In Mrutu's essay, she talked about how her biggest barrier in life was with herself. In her sophomore year in high school, Mrutu stated she was in a relationship with another girl and she was going through the battles of trying to be accepted by her peers. Mrutu said she had to have the courage to break through the wall of other people's opinions and fight the war she was having with herself.
For her award-winning essay, Robinson presented Mrutu with a laptop in front of a standing ovation from the audience.
Also in attendance to speak at the ceremony was Meagan Denny-White, former professional softball player and current pitching coach for the University of Texas at Arlington. Denny-White talked about her career and the path it took to get there. She emphasized her path, like any other's to be a professional athlete or to reach your goals in life, requires hard work and dedication to get there.
"The RBI program gives these girls a chance to reach their goals," said Denny-White, who played for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch league. "The sky is the limit these days. Softball is progressing and getting bigger as a sport, but it's still quite young. This generation of girls have more opportunities and outlets than ever before, so as long as they keep working hard, colleges will see and they will have the chance for college scholarships and to possibly play professionally."
At the end of the ceremony, Tom Brasuell, vice president of community affairs for Major League Baseball, recognized the four winners for the "RBI for RBI" scholarship fund. The program was established by Major League Baseball to provide financial support to college-bound RBI participants.
The recipients of the scholarships were Lexus Allen of Harrisburg RBI; Molly Larkin (Philadelphia Phillies RBI); Ashlee Larkins (Cincinnati Reds RBI); and Kaylyn Schmitz (Cincinnati Reds RBI). Allen was the lone winner of the scholarship to be playing in the RBI Softball World Series this week.
"Receiving this scholarship means a lot, especially for my mom as a single parent," said Allen, who had a 4.2 grade-point average and plans to attend University of Maryland Eastern Shore and major in biology and pre-physician's assistant. "This scholarship will help take the burden of her and myself and also makes me feel proud about the work I put in to get here."
Ryan Cox is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.