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Softball players train, share tips at EDI

Special to MLB.com

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Angie Ordonez didn't choose to play softball for the then-Harlem RBI program simply because she wanted to become the best player in New York City.

"I came to RBI because my mom just needed somewhere to put me," said Ordonez, a longtime member of the now-Harlem Dream. "It was a blessing, because they taught me everything, taught me to have heart for the game. … I thank [my coach] all the time for it."

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Angie Ordonez didn't choose to play softball for the then-Harlem RBI program simply because she wanted to become the best player in New York City.

"I came to RBI because my mom just needed somewhere to put me," said Ordonez, a longtime member of the now-Harlem Dream. "It was a blessing, because they taught me everything, taught me to have heart for the game. … I thank [my coach] all the time for it."

Ordonez is one of over 90 softball players -- many of whom play for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs or Major League teams' youth academies -- who are at Historic Dodgertown for the five-day Elite Development Invitational. The program's third day was spent training and sharing tips with one another at Historic Dodgertown.

Rhode Island's Mackenzie Palmer was among the girls in awe of the opportunity to attend the EDI. Palmer is only one of two players from the Ocean State who is in Vero Beach this weekend.

"I'm going to be here with kids from Alaska, California, Georgia, everywhere," Palmer said. "It was really, really cool [to be picked]. … I've learned so much so far and I'm really excited to tell [my teammates] what I've learned."

The players have also been treated to advice from the pros, learning from Olympian Jennie Finch on Thursday. Longtime MLB outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. was also in attendance Sunday to watch his daughter, Kenedie, participate in the program.

Players will travel to Miami on Monday to speak with members of the Marlins' organization before watching the Brewers-Marlins game.

Recent battles with inclement weather have created opportunities to make memories off the field, whether it's going over strategies in a classroom or learning of Jackie Robinson's heroics in the meeting room named for the Hall of Fame second baseman.

"I think I've learned a lot about family and being bonded with your teammates," said Kelli-Anne Mendez, a rising high school senior from Indiana. "It just teaches us to be helpful with everyone. Of course, we learn the game, but I like to think of this more as family."

Added Palmer, who has been taking the weekend to improve her catching: "I've just learned how confidence is so important. And I've learned how to get in touch with that confidence, how to speak with my fielders."

Though their time in Vero Beach is going by quickly, players in attendance realize they can bring valuable lessons home with them. Some will focus on "cheat codes" and tricks for the field, but others have learned what makes a team work off the field.

Years after her first at-bat, Ordonez reflected on a journey that's taken her from Harlem to the fields of Dodgertown.

"When I first started, Harlem really wasn't known for being a good neighborhood," Ordonez said. "It was just something [where] they were taking kids in, keeping them safe, trying to guide them to the right direction and as it keeps growing, we're getting more kids. I've been here since the jump, and I want them to cherish it.

"Not every kid today gets this opportunity," Ordonez added, "and I am this person today because a lot of lessons they taught me."

Jake Elman is a contributor to MLB.com.