VERO BEACH, Fla. -- MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) 2019 World Series featured 16 of the program’s top baseball teams, but only two are returning home with trophies: Chicago White Sox RBI and Arizona RBI, who won the Junior (ages 13-15) and Senior (ages 16-18) Division Championships, respectively.
The Junior title is Chicago’s first since 2016, the same year Arizona won its last Senior title.
RBI, an MLB youth outreach program created in 1989, provides baseball and softball opportunities to more than 150,000 underprivileged youth from over 200 cities.
This year’s tournament was the first played at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla., the RBI World Series’ new permanent home.
Arizona RBI was dominant all tournament, sweeping its first four games. But it ran into its biggest challenge in the championship: Miami Marlins RBI, which was also 4-0.
Third baseman Justin Flebbe’s electrifying performance, however, ensured his Arizona squad was the only unbeaten left standing.
Down one in the third inning, Flebbe evened the score with an RBI double to deep left. Infielder Nathan Rohlicek scored from third on the next at-bat to give Arizona the lead.
And when Miami scored in the fourth to lock the teams at two, Flebbe struck back in the fifth -- the game’s defining inning. Flebbe smacked a go-ahead RBI double to give Arizona a 3-2 advantage; later in the inning, he scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2, the eventual final score.
Flebbe’s hits were timely, to say the least. And those high-stakes situations don’t faze the University of New Mexico baseball commit, who said, “The pressure doesn’t really get to me.”
The pressure didn’t seem to get to Chicago Junior RBI infielder Sean Moore, either.
Moore scored the Junior Division Championship game’s first runs in the third inning, sprinting home after Miami Marlins catcher Keyber Delgado tossed an errant ball to first. Moore, a pitcher/outfielder, finished the tournament with a team-leading .412 batting average.
Moore’s squad added two runs in the fourth to extend its lead to 3-0, a score that stood through the final pitch.
“We always tell them: Big-time guys make big-time plays in big-time situations,” said White Sox coach Marcus Rodgers, who led his team to a 4-2 record. “And for us, this is our biggest tournament of the year.”
Chicago pitcher Yashion Boswell embodied that message.
After a shaky first start (four hits and an earned run over 3 1/3 innings), Boswell responded with an MVP performance when it mattered most. Boswell fanned four over seven innings, allowing only four hits and no walks.
“In this game, I heard you really don’t make it far unless you have short-term memory,” Boswell said. “So if I came out here thinking about my previous outings, I probably wouldn’t have done as good.”
Moore’s used to the pressure of tournament play. He took Chicago to last year’s RBI World Series in Minneapolis, where the team lost to Philadelphia. And his experience there fueled his team’s quest for redemption this year.
“Chicago White Sox charities provide excellent coaching, excellent facilities, excellent general manager, excellent everything for the kids to be successful,” Rodgers said. “And I love it that we can come and show our appreciation at the RBI World Series and try to bring home the hardware.”