RBI Series 'family' affair for Durham, Cleveland

August 8th, 2019

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The sports world is filled with uplifting stories of beating the odds, and the RBI World Series has its very own "Cinderella Story." It's true that simply participating in the RBI program, and even its very existence, represents the ultimate in underdogs overcoming the odds.

But the Durham Triple Play RBI club is making its first appearance in the World Series after 11 years of building the program. It's with the help of successful and caring people that it finally got that glass slipper to fit.

Morris Jones knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a winner. He played in the Cleveland Baseball Federation RBI program's first World Series and he is now in his first year of coaching with the Durham Senior Division RBI program, it too is making its first World Series trip.

But the connection between Jones and the RBI program goes deeper than that. Jones' teammate on the Cleveland RBI team, Cory Douglass, is the current coach of the Cleveland RBI Senior Division team, which also earned its way into this year's RBI World Series.

"We consider each other family now," Jones said.

Douglass actually began coaching at age 19, after his final year in the RBI program, and he even coached Jones, his former teammate just a year before.

"That's kind of unique, kind of wild, honestly," Douglass said of the coincidental meeting in South Florida. "We texted each other during regions, 'how cool would it be if we both made it to the World Series. How cool would it be if we played each other for the championship.'"

Sure, Jones would be ecstatic for each to meet with a championship on the line, but he's in it to give back.

"The program helped me out so much, I was able to earn a [college] scholarship through RBI," Jones said. "They asked me what school I wanted to apply to."

Being a stellar athlete himself, Jones said he had no intentions of going to college and he was sure he'd be drafted right out of high school.

"That wasn't the case, but they made sure I had a backup plan," Jones said. "I had people in my corner. I graduated from college [in 2014 from North Carolina Central] and decided I wanted to do the same thing and give back to the same program that gave me a chance."

Jones reached out to Durham RBI president Pat James, who invited him in. One thing led to another and before he knew it, Jones was indeed giving back. Besides, coaching is in his blood. His dad coached since Jones was 5 years old.

But the Durham RBI club entered its first World Series with a heavy heart.

Former program director Frank Jacobs Jr. died in March from complications due to diabetes. His nephew Frankey Jacobs is on the current coaching staff and he is comforted in the knowledge that his uncle serves as an inspiration for the success of the Durham RBI program. A program that both Jacobs Sr. and James helped start and play integral parts in its growth into the powerhouse it is today.

"He's helped countless number of kids, go to college, get to the next level," Jacobs said. "He helped me get to the next level. He helped so many kids get better not only as players, but as men as well."

The former longtime coach remains in the hearts of the Durham team, which hangs a shirt with his picture on it in their dugout for every game of the World Series.

"He's basically our 11th man on the field," Jacobs said. "A lot of the guys on the team played under him. So they know the importance. We feel like he's looking over us and is the inspiration for us getting here."