HOUSTON -- Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that The Astros Foundation will be launching the Astros RBI League, a free baseball and softball program at the Astros Urban Youth Academy in 2014. This marks the first time the team has officially joined Major League Baseball in organizing an 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 Urban Youth Academy staff. Astros RBI will launch this spring, with games and tournaments in June and July. The league will include teams in three divisions: 18-and-under girls softball, 13-15 boys baseball and 16-18 boys baseball.
"The creation of the new RBI League is a terrific opportunity for inner-city teens to hone their baseball and softball skills for free," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "We know we have a lot of talent here in Houston and our new expanded RBI program teaches vital life skills -- like teamwork, perseverance and respect for others -- that are important off the field as well as on."
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is a Major League Baseball program. Organized in 1989, RBI gives youngsters the opportunity to combine athletics and academics. The Astros Urban Youth Academy is operated by The Astros Foundation and provides free baseball and softball instruction, life skills training and academic support to Houston youth, with a focus on serving inner city and at-risk children and teens.
The Astros Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park on the north side of Houston boasts experienced instructors and hosts baseball and softball camps, clinics and other activities year round, for free, to youngsters ages 7 to 17. In addition to the new Astros RBI program, the UYA staff will also provide mentoring, leadership development and assistance with the college application process.
"We are pleased to join forces with the Houston Astros and The Astros Foundation," said Timothy J. Brosnan, executive vice president of business for Major League Baseball. "Astros RBI will give kids a chance to play ball, while developing their character and teaching them sportsmanship."
Baseball tryouts are being scheduled for May 3, 10 and 17, and softball tryouts will be May 10 and 17. More information will be available soon on the web at www.astros.com/foundation.
"This new partnership with The Houston Astros and Astros Foundation is good for Major League Baseball, the city of Houston and most importantly, for the kids," said Thomas C. Brasuell, vice president of community affairs for Major League Baseball.
The goals of the RBI programs are to increase participation and interest in baseball; develop the players' self-esteem; motivate young athletes to study more effectively; provide participants with a strong incentive to stay in school; provide communities with the opportunity to become actively involved with their kids; develop talented athletes to participate with high school and college teams; and increase the number of ethnic minorities in the game of baseball.
Prior to 2014, the Houston RBI program was directed by an independent group that is no longer chartered by MLB. To continue the growth of the Astros youth baseball initiatives in the Houston area and support the youngsters previously served by RBI in the community, The Astros Foundation agreed to fund the program beginning this spring and summer. The Astros RBI program will place a strong emphasis on the compliance of all MLB rules, procedures and requirements.
RBI participants are invited to sectional and regional tournaments in order to be part of the teams that compete in the annual RBI World Series in August. RBI programs reach more than 170,000 boys and girls and have been started in over 200 cities worldwide.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.