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Marlins to host RBI World Series

Tournament to take place at spring home from Aug. 5-14

MIAMI -- Youth baseball will get a taste of the big leagues this summer in South Florida.

Major League Baseball on Wednesday afternoon announced the Florida Marlins will host the 2009 Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) World Series.

The 20th RBI World Series will take place at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., from Aug. 5-14.

Roger Dean Stadium is the Spring Training home for the Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.

In all, 24 teams will compete in three divisions in the RBI World Series. The Junior Boys division is for ages 13-15, and there is a Senior Boys division for ages 16-18.

Softball also will be represented for girls 19 and under.

The returning champions in each division -- Detroit (Junior Boys), Los Angeles (Senior Boys) and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Girls Softball) -- are invited to defend their respective titles.

"We've very proud of the achievements made by the program, not only on the field, but off the field as well, developing young men and women into positive citizens across the country," said David James, director of the RBI program.

Last year, the championship was held at the Urban Youth Baseball Academy in Compton, Calif.

The announcement of South Florida playing host to the 20th RBI World Series comes during a time Major League Baseball has several initiatives taking place in South Florida.

Earlier this month, the league announced it will open an Urban Youth Academy, similar to Compton, in the city of Hialeah in Miami-Dade County.

In March, Dolphin Stadium will be the site of second-round games of the World Baseball Classic.

"This is important to us," Marlins president David Samson said. "As you can see, there is a theme. A couple of weeks ago, we introduced the Hialeah academy.

"What the Marlins do in this community, it's hard to measure. We may not advertise what we do every day, but what we do is important to a lot of kids who need help. We believe in RBI and we've supported it for a long time. We're very, very happy that they've chosen South Florida -- not just for the academy, but the RBI World Series at Roger Dean Stadium, which to me, is the best Spring Training facility that there is. It's the perfect place to host the World Series."

The news conference on Wednesday took place on the field at Dolphin Stadium, and it was well attended.

On hand for the event were Marlins general manager Michael Hill, KPMG audit partner Bill Luebke and about a dozen players who compete locally in the RBI program.

"I think South Florida has proven an ideal place for regional tournaments in the past," Luebke said. "We can't wait to showcase South Florida for the rest of the RBI programs at the World Series."

Also at the event were Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley, pitcher Ricky Nolasco, first baseman Gaby Sanchez and infielder Robert Andino.

Growing up in California, Nolasco said he didn't have the opportunities that are presented to players who compete in RBI.

"I didn't do anything like that when I was younger," Nolasco said. "To be able to meet Major League players, or play in Major League parks, it's something that makes you a better player.

"I never did those kinds of things. I played regular Little League and stuff. But as these kids are growing up, things like this are more popular, and it's a fortunate thing for them to be a part of."

RBI has a long history of developing top-flight players. The program has produced 180 players who were drafted. Before they were big leaguers, CC Sabathia, Coco Crisp, Carl Crawford and James Loney all competed in RBI.

"When you're a Major League city, you have great responsibility, and we take that responsibility seriously," Samson said.

RBI is one of many MLB initiatives dedicated to enhancing youth participation and interest in baseball and softball.

"The relationship that we have with the Marlins has been a long-standing one," James said. "Their support for RBI have been unwavering. The efforts they've made across the board have caught the attention of us and other RBI programs across the country. We thought of no better partner to host 2009 World Series than the Florida Marlins."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for
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