MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twin Cities will soon become the epicenter for one of youth baseball's greatest events for nearly two weeks. More than 300 youth baseball and softball players from across the United States, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela will converge upon the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for the second straight year next week, as they take part in the 20th annual Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series.
The RBI World Series is the international baseball and softball tournament of the RBI program, a Major League Baseball youth initiative designed to give young people from underserved and diverse areas the opportunity to play baseball and softball, encourage academic success and teach the value of teamwork.
With this marking the 20th annual edition of the event, plans are set to make this the biggest one yet. The festivities will begin with MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig delivering the keynote speech at the welcome luncheon at 12:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, in the Carew Atrium at Target Field.
"Obviously we're thrilled to death to have the Commissioner come out," RBI program director David James said. "It's something really special for these RBI participants to hear from Commissioner Selig himself."
In addition to Selig, Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor and former Twins great Tony Oliva will also be in attendance. Players from the qualifying RBI teams will have the opportunity to ask questions of Selig and the baseball legends in a "town hall" format, James said.
"We couldn't think of a better way to mark this anniversary," James said.
And that doesn't include the actual games on the field. Play in the juniors (boys ages 13-15) and seniors (boys ages 16-18) will begin on Thursday, Aug. 2, with games at Neiman Sports Complex and Parade Stadium in Minneapolis, as well as at Toni Stone Field in St. Paul. Play will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 5, with championship games in each division being played at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins.
Then the girls will get their chance as softball opens play on Tuesday, Aug. 7, with games at Neiman Sports Complex, as well as Dunning Field in St. Paul. A champion will be crowned on Aug. 12 at the University of Minnesota's Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
Kevin Smith, the Twins' executive director of public affairs and executive director of the Twins Community Fund, spoke about what hosting the event again means.
"The Twins organization and the Twins Community Fund are honored to host the RBI World Series for a second year in a row," Smith said. "And it is even more special, since we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of this wonderful program."
James said he is thrilled for the event to return to the Twin Cities after they hosted it last year.
"To give kids an opportunity on the baseball side to play championship games at Target Field, on the softball side at the University of Minnesota -- all first-class facilities," James said. "The support that we've gotten from both of the communities, both of the Twin Cities, has really meant a lot, not only to Major League Baseball, but we got so many positive comments last year from the leagues that participated. Some of those leagues have repeated and will be coming back.
"But everyone's really, really excited about coming back to Minnesota."