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RBI program leaves stamp on Draft

First-rounders Smith, Crawford among eight alum of program selected

Lent a helping hand, eight young baseball players took full advantage.

Products of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program, these eight players were selected in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft this week.

And two were drafted in the first round.

Dominic Smith (11th overall, Mets) and J.P. Crawford (16th overall, Phillies) were teammates in the program in Compton, Calif. They're also products of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy.

"They mean a ton," Smith said of UYA and RBI. "They exposed me to so much baseball and got me to this point. Without them, I wouldn't even be here. They exposed me with the scholarship, the traveling, baseball around the world. It has taken me to places like China, Florida, Arizona, I could keep naming them all. Without that exposure, I don't think I would be here today."

The Mets liked what they saw in the 17-year-old Smith, a first baseman who grew up south of Los Angeles.

He can get his hands to the ball and get inside the ball as well as anybody I've seen as an amateur," Mets amateur scouting director Tommy Tanous said. "It's an extremely smooth swing. His legs stay under him. His head never moves. And it's really, really a flawless bat path once he gets to the ball."

Crawford, a relative of Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford, might never have made it without the support of the programs, which reach out to youth players in attempt to help them progress in their careers.

"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am now," Crawford said. "When I first started going there at the age of 12, they helped me out with all the little things about baseball, all the fundamentals. Then I started getting exposed out there, so they helped me out with that, too."

Why did Crawford stand out to the Phillies in the first round? He showed much more experience than a typical 18-year-old.

"He's a little bit of an advanced defensive player at shortstop," Phillies assistant general manager Marti Wolever said. "Offensively, he's a little bit ahead of the game, too. We're probably looking at three to four years before he's knocking at the door here in Philadelphia."

Six other products of the RBI program were drafted, including Kevin Franklin (67th overall, Reds), Tyler Mahle (seventh round, Reds), Johnny Slater (31st round, Braves), Corey Ray (33rd round, Mariners), Ronell Coleman (40th round, White Sox) and Sal Mendez (40th round, Rangers).

Jason Mastrodonato is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @jmastrodonato.