CINCINNATI -- The Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Softball World Series begins today at the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy.On Thursday, the eight competing teams from across the U.S. and Caribbean gathered at the Kingsgate Hotel for the opening banquet, which featured MLB vice president of Youth Programs
CINCINNATI -- The Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Softball World Series begins today at the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy.
On Thursday, the eight competing teams from across the U.S. and Caribbean gathered at the Kingsgate Hotel for the opening banquet, which featured MLB vice president of Youth Programs David James and the a presentation from Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
"Just recently softball was announced that it made the 2020 Olympics, so this is a perfect time to really make sure that we're promoting and we're doing everything we can to provide girls opportunities to play also," James said.
• Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities
The eight teams participating come from across the country, from the Greater Los Angeles area to Hoboken, N.J. and even the Dominican Republic. In order to reach the World Series, teams had to win one of the eight RBI regions: the Southwest, Caribbean, West, Northeast, Southeast, East, Central and Mid-Atlantic.
The teams represent a high level of competition, including the Browns Mills team from Atlanta, which won seven straight RBI softball championships from 2001-07, and the defending champions from Cleveland.
"Houston's an up-and-coming program and obviously the Dominican Republic is always tough," James said. "They all compete and they're regional champions so they're good. Otherwise, they wouldn't be here. We think this is probably going to be one of our most competitive tournaments."
• RBI World Series coverage
Competitive play beginstoday after a showcase-style workout in the morning. The tournament starts with the teams being divided into two four-team divisions and playing each team in their division once. From that, seeding will be determined and a single-elimination tournament will be played on Sunday and Monday to determine who will play in Tuesday's championship game.
This year's RBI Softball World Series is special because it's the first since the MLB Youth Programs department sponsored with USA Softball. The partnership is aimed at expanding the department's reach with softball, with a goal of expanding the World Series from eight to 16 teams like the baseball one in the near future.
"[USA Softball is] really interested in the RBI program and want to explore ways that they can help us grow the RBI program on the softball side," James said. "The main goal is to provide play opportunities for underserved kids, underserved communities and that's something that USA Softball is very interested in and they think that a partnership together in conjunction with our clubs can really help raise the profile of providing opportunities for girls to play."
One of the biggest differences between the RBI Baseball World Series, which was hosted at the Urban Youth Academy last week, and the RBI Softball World Series is that the Softball World Series spreads out to play its games. While two fields at the Urban Youth Academy are set up for the softball series, they will also play games at William Mason High School in Mason, Ohio, and they will play the championship game at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Also on the logistic side of things, rain is forecasted for Cincinnati every day over the weekend, but James remains confident that they will be able to get every game in.
"One of the neat things is at least three of the complexes that we're going to play at is turf," James said. "We were sort of talking some logistics this morning and we think we'll be in a good place and be able to get the games in one way or another."
Fans are invited to attend the tournament games, a schedule of which can be found on the RBI World Series website. For those who can't attend, the RBI website includes a link that will allow fans to get score updates provided through the GameChanger App.
Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.