RBI World Series begins in Texas
Rangers to host youth baseball tournament finals on Monday
GRAPEVINE, Texas -- For the first time in the program's 22-year history, the Texas Rangers are hosting the 2014 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series, with baseball and softball tournaments being played through Aug. 17 at local high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The baseball tournament features teams from all over the world in two age groups competing for the chance to play in the championship games on Monday at Globe Life Park, home to the Texas Rangers. Championship games will be televised on MLB Network on Aug. 16 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
In the senior division, consisting of ages 16-18, eight teams fill the bracket, with four teams representing RBI programs run by MLB clubs. Other representatives are from Kansas City, Kan., Jersey City, N.J., Cleveland and Venezuela.
To qualify for the RBI World Series, teams from 39 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela competed in regional tournaments throughout the year.
Thursday morning was an opportunity for the teams participating to showcase their skills in front of college and professional scouts in a workout. Each team ran defensive drills to display their gloves, arm strength and range across the field. To close out the morning, teams selected players to race in the 60-yard dash while scouts lined up with stopwatches and clipboards on the sidelines.
The RBI program has seen its numbers grow from a few hundred players in 1993, when the program began, to currently 230,000 young athletes from communities worldwide. One of the professional scouts in attendance at the workout day was Rob Holiday, director of amateur scouting for the Philadelphia Phillies.
"RBI is hugely important because it's giving opportunities to kids in inner cities who may not have had an opportunity before," said Holiday. "It certainly helps grow the game as an industry because we have a lot of untapped resources ... and this is giving them the opportunity to reach their potential."
Not only does the RBI program provide opportunities for the players to play at the next level, but it also allows them to give back to the communities. Once the workout concluded, the players volunteered at a community service event at the North Texas Food Bank.
The scouts were primarily focused on the senior division, but also competing this week but also competing this week are the 13- to-15-year-olds, the junior division.
"This week is great, it's one-stop shopping," said a grinning Holiday. "We get to be here and spend a few days not only seeing these young men play, but get a chance to talk with them and see what they are like as people as well as players."
The RBI program has seen a vast group of talent participate over the years, having more than 200 former RBI participants drafted by MLB clubs. Notable RBI alumni on current MLB rosters include the Yankees' CC Sabathia, the Braves' Justin Upton, the Dodgers' Carl Crawford and Manny Machado of the Orioles.
To go along with the NCAA and professional scouts in attendance at the workout day was former White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel, who is actively involved with educating and helping youth ballplayers develop around the world.
"Over the years there's been somewhat of a disconnect [with youth baseball], but with RBI and all they have done, it's definitely rewarding to see this amount of kids, this amount of scouts, this amount of talent out here on one field for everyone to take a look at," Manuel said.
"For these kids to maybe have a dream come true and possibly play at the next level, whether it be college or in the Major Leagues, is tremendous."