Accomplished DC Elite earn historic berth in Nike RBI World Series

August 10th, 2023

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The DC Elite softball team has already made history. Now the club is interested in making a mark on the Nike RBI World Series tournament at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.

After five years of finishing second in the Mid-Atlantic region, this year head coach Harry Thomas Jr. saw his squad defeat defending champion Harrisburg (Pa.), which shocked Houston in its bid for a three-peat in 2022.

By beating the Keystone State group, DC Elite became the first softball team from the District of Columbia to reach the prestigious tournament. It joined seven other teams, including Houston as it tried to regain its championship form, in the tourney at JRTC.

Also in the field are teams from the Dominican Republic, Hawaii, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami and Jersey City (N.J.).

Thomas knows firsthand what it is like to be rubbing elbows with history, as he watched his son’s baseball club set a precedent eight years ago.

“It dawned on me before this, and it dawned in a big way,” Thomas said on Wednesday morning, after his club defeated the Miami squad, 8-6, in the resumption of a game interrupted by lightning the previous afternoon. “The other team to come here was the team my son played on in 2015.

“So I stressed to the girls that while this is our first time here, treat it as if you’ll never make it back again and put all our effort into what we do. We don’t take anything for granted.”

At the heart of it all, Thomas said, is his group’s commitment to RBI and the values set forth by Major League Baseball.

“I went on a mission with RBI because I saw the values -- the core values -- that RBI represents that are way bigger than travel ball,” he said. “We’ve attracted girls who have played travel ball sometimes, but then they also have to put [forth] the value that MLB wants when it comes to character and courage.

“Our whole goal is to sell the RBI program -- reviving baseball in the inner cities. If we do that, then kids who are getting passed by will not get passed by. My pitcher is now going to Delaware State, my shortstop is now going to Hampton University. Our players are on goal to go to college.

“Then let’s talk about the cherry on top. These kids come to EDI camp, Breakthrough camps and participate in scholarship opportunities. ... MLB is giving back to communities in a big way.”

Jared Blais/MLB Photos

DC Elite also shows its affection for the hometown club -- the Washington Nationals.

The team has an affiliation with the organization’s Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, does community service with the outfit and sports the Nats’ logo featuring a cursive upper-case "W" emblazoned on the front of their jerseys.

“Last year, Nationals Academy was very kind to us,” Thomas said. “Before practice, our girls are working at the academy for probably two hours doing community service then practice for three hours.”

Offensively, DC Elite is a force of baserunning aggression -- attempting to take the extra base with their athleticism and speed and testing opposing fielders’ awareness and throwing accuracy.

The club’s defense is anchored in its battery led by pitcher Kristin White and catcher Yasmin Burrell.

The pitcher getting set to start her career at Delaware State is White, a right-hander who was critical in DC Elite’s success in the tournament.

Not at all bashful and effusive in praise of the player receiving her offerings, White said her relationship with Burrell is like most between batterymates who handle the ball the majority of game.

“It’s amazing working with her,” said White, 18. “When I first met her, like not only are we close but it’s so much easier to work with each other. She knows this pitch or that pitch to call. I agree on probably 90 percent of the pitches she calls. She’s one of the best catchers I’ve had in my entire career.”

An upcoming junior, the 16-year-old Burrell matriculates at St. John’s College High School in Washington.

“It is so great to be here,” Burrell said. “We lost two years in a row [to Harrisburg], so it’s such a big accomplishment beating them in regionals and getting here. We’re all just happy to be here, honestly."

White and Burrell were also at JRTC in 2022 while participating in the Elite Development Invitational.

“This is what we work for all year,” Burrell said. “We’re here as a team and a family. It’s a big accomplishment.”

The backstop also said she understands the significance of her predominantly African American team playing in a major tournament on the grounds where biracial Dodgers catcher once competed.

“In the game of softball, you don’t see that many girls that look like us, African American girls,” said Burrell. “It’s just amazing to be able to come on a field and play where former Negro League players have played.

“It’s a big accomplishment.”

Jared Blais/MLB Photos

Thursday’s double-elimination game results:

• Cleveland Guardians Nike RBI defeats Miami Marlins Nike RBI, 3-1, eliminating Miami Marlins Nike RBI.

• Dominican Republic Nike RBI defeats Cincinnati Reds Nike RBI, 5-1, eliminating Cincinnati Reds Nike RBI.

• Houston Astros Nike RBI defeats DC Elite Nike RBI, 7-0, making them 2-0 in double-elimination play.

• Roberto Clemente Jersey City Nike RBI defeats Nobu Yamauchi Nike RBI, 11-6, making them 2-0 in double-elimination play.

• Cleveland Guardians Nike RBI defeats Nobu Yamauchi Nike RBI, 9-7, making them 2-1 in double-elimination play and eliminating Nobu Yamauchi Nike RBI.

• DC Elite Nike RBI defeats Dominican Republic Nike RBI, 6-1, making them 2-1 in double-elimination play, and eliminating Dominican Republic Nike RBI.