'Chances of a lifetime' culminate at RBI World Series

August 6th, 2019

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and Major League Baseball are working hand in hand to provide support and opportunities for young players from high risk/underserved backgrounds. Junior Division teams connected with MLB clubs at the 2019 RBI World Series include the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Miami Marlins, along with the New Orleans Youth Academy.

Junior Division Chicago White Sox RBI coach Marcus Rodgers lauded the efforts of the Major League organization for putting the kids in the right places to be successful both on and off the diamond from tutors to ACT prep.

“We also have an intern Darius Day, who was with the program, played professional baseball [as a Minor Leaguer in the Rangers’ organization], had an injury that kind of ended his professional career,” Rodgers said. “Now he’s back pouring as much as he can into these kids as well. So we have a whole group and a whole team around the kids, all year round.”

Rodgers thinks the young players look to the coaches as mentors.

“You know, that younger, cool older brother or uncle, where they can come and have those tough conversations about school, about baseball, about girls, about everything,” Rodgers said. “We pride ourselves, with the help of the White Sox, to assist these guys in whatever they want to do in life.”

Miami Marlins RBI coach Brett Marks listed the ways in which the Major League organization helps the youth club.

“The Marlins do a lot for us down in Miami,” Marks said. “They supply us with game balls for every game. They give us two dri-fit jerseys -- one black and one gray. They pay for the umpires. They bring us to RBI Night at Marlins Park, usually in July before the Southeast Regional, which was in Atlanta this year.

“They geared us up for the [RBI] World Series. They gave us polos, they gave us dri-fits and they gave us nice uniforms, hats.”

Marks pointed out all that the Marlins do for the club in the community.

“We have Junior RBI as well for little kids, starting at T-ball all the way up to age 18 in the Senior Division,” Marks said. “They’re making it bigger right now in Miami, trying to get around 1,000 kids. They’re doing their job. They really take care of us.”

With the expense of travel baseball, the Marlins are affording opportunities that might not otherwise be available.

“We give them an opportunity. We bring college coaches out,” said Marks, who is a coach at Cairn University (Langhorne, Pa.). “We bring them out; scouts come and watch the kids. Just getting them exposed to the next level.

“The Marlins do a lot for us with that. They let us use [Marlins Park] to practice sometimes when the team is on the road. We played the championship game for the wood bat tournament in that stadium. It was a great experience. They do a lot for us.”

The same can be said for all of RBI. New Orleans Youth Academy RBI coach Robert Fletcher knows both sides of the equation having played in the program himself.

“Major League Baseball does a ton for these kids. It’s amazing. RBI is just another outlet for these kids to play all year round in different events. They get chances of a lifetime,” Fletcher said.

The New Orleans team was afforded the opportunity to play and win regionals in Austin at Dell Diamond Stadium, home of the Houston Astros’ Minor League team.

“The kids even got to see Carlos Correa play a rehab assignment that day,” Fletcher said. “So it’s an opportunity kids would never get otherwise. RBI and Major League Baseball are trying to help out the kids and show them that there’s still a way for them to also make it. You don’t have to have the $100,000 glove; they give the kids a lot of things. It’s just a great experience.”

Fletcher knows first-hand what RBI and Major League Baseball do for the youth. He played in the RBI World Series in Fort Myers, Fla., earning the trip by winning regionals in Minnesota.

“I was the first group of kids to play a game on Target Field,” he said. “It was the first year Target Field opened for the Twins, and we got to play the championship game on that field.

“So I’m an alumni myself,” said the 24-year-old Chicago native, who is in his first year as head coach after working his way up from assistant coach. “I just finished college not too long ago. So it just feels good to give back. To see where RBI has come from, and now we have the Jackie Robinson Complex [as the permanent RBI World Series home] is just tremendous. So many legends walked through this place on a daily basis, so much history here.”

Red Sox RBI coach Jose Cordero also played in the organization and is now coaching.

“It’s a wonderful experience. Playing in the RBI program for many years was wonderful,” said Cordero, who is from Puerto Rico. “The Red Sox do a lot. They help out with the fields and they give kids an opportunity to go to [Fenway Park] and meet players.

“It’s wonderful to be a coach and bring these kids back and show them what it’s all about. It’s an experience like no other.”