'A proud moment' for RBI World Series teams

August 6th, 2021

Teammates on the field. Practically family outside the lines.

That has been a common refrain at the RBI World Series this week at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla.

Andy Acosta, a member of the Marlins RBI squad, feels a special bond with his teammates, many of whom come from countries around the Caribbean.

“Almost all of [my teammates are] from countries like Dominica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela,” Acosta said. “It is a very good team. I'm proud to be here. I'm proud to play with these guys.”

Acosta’s family ties to baseball extend to his Cuban heritage, as his uncle played in the island’s national league.

“He’s proud -- he’s proud I’m playing baseball,” Acosta said.

The Miami baseball scene comes with a great deal of passion, with a diverse group of Latino players coming together to share their love of the game.

“[Baseball is] huge. It's a huge thing [in Miami]. You know, my parents are Cuban. Therefore, that's the family sport,” said Ciro Capote, one of the Miami RBI parents.

“We were blessed to be from this culture. And we're blessed to have this background. That kind of fuels for the kids to play the way they play.”

The familial theme was also evident when speaking with Darius Isaac of the Phillies RBI team. His brother also reached the RBI World Series.

As his older brother Demetrius also played in the Philly RBI program, Isaac came into the tournament with valuable perspective.

“He loved the competition. He loved meeting new people,” said Isaac. “He told me to get after and just compete every day.”

Isaac has loved his time on the RBI Baseball program’s biggest stage.

“I'm loving the experience so far. It’s nice here at the Jackie Robinson complex,” Isaac said. “It's a big complex but it's small enough where you get to meet other teams, get to know the teams before we play them.”

The Philadelphia RBI coach, Justin Chasmar, agrees with his player’s sentiments.

“A lot of guys that we have and have had in the past, we've had the older brother/younger brother, older sister/younger sister in our softball program, as well,” Chasmar said.

“So four years from now, we'll probably have the same families here from the younger brother, coming up through the system and they get to see all these all these things that MLB offers. When you win your regionals, you get to come down to Vero Beach, the Jackie Robinson complex and be treated like a pro for a week. It's a lot of fun.”

A fan of the Mets’ Dominic Smith -- an RBI program alumnus -- Nelson Martinez has loved competing on such a high level at this week’s tournament. Playing left field like his idol on the Mets, the Jersey City RBI youth has embraced the chance to excel in front of his friends and family.

“It’s cool playing in front of my friends and family -- people I look at as family that are really friends. Pretty close,” Martinez said. “So it was good having them support us,” Martinez said.

One of the Jersey City RBI moms, Jessie Palacios, is proud to watch her son and his friends compete on a new stage.

“I can tell you that we're super excited for a lot of these kids. It's their first out-of-state tournament. So it's an experience in itself, to come to the Sunshine State,” Palacios said.

“And to be able to play with other teams that are probably as good or if not better, right? So it's good competition, exposure. It's an experience.”

Getting to this point, Palacios added, was the product of hard work.

“This is a proud moment for not just my son, but for all the boys,” she said. “They all put in a lot of work. They put in a lot of long practices. A lot of personal training, and they worked very hard to get here. So I know I speak for everyone – we’re super proud.”

Tournament at a glance
• The RBI World Series features nearly 200 young athletes on teams from 13 cities around the U.S. A total of four RBI programs (Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Dodgers and Roberto Clemente) have sent two teams to the tournament, while Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle are sending teams for the first time in many years. A team from Williamsport, Pa., clinched a berth for the first time.

• The RBI program, which has served approximately 2 million players since its inception in 1989, is administered by Major League Baseball and designed to give young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball, while also encouraging academic achievement and teaching the value of teamwork, among other important life lessons.

• The list of RBI alumni who have gone on to play in the Majors is rather impressive, headlined by: Justin Upton, Eloy Jiménez, Nomar Mazara, Anthony Rendon, Josh Harrison, Jackie Bradley Jr., Ramón Laureano, J.P. Crawford and the Mets' Smith.

• Among the aforementioned, Jiménez (Dominican Republic RBI, 2012), Mazara (Dominican Republic RBI, ’11), Crawford (Venice Boys & Girls Club RBI, ’09) and Smith (Venice Boys & Girls Club RBI, ’09) have played in the RBI World Series.