Youth Academy RBI Softball All-Stars play at Globe Life Field

August 4th, 2020

While the Texas Rangers had an off-day Monday in the middle of a West Coast road trip, a game still took place back at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

Teams made up of All-Stars from the RBI Softball League at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, presented by Toyota, faced off for bragging rights on the field.

Giselle Garcia was letting it all sink in before the game.

"It feels like a dream come true. For me especially, I just graduated. It's something that you never thought would happen because of coronavirus. It's a dream come true because nobody else gets to say, 'I played the first softball game at Globe Life Field.' It's just so surreal," the Molina High School graduate said.

Garcia's Rangers squad scored seven runs in the top of the second, jumping out to an early 8-1 lead.

Ariana Ortiz (Molina High School, 2021) provided the inning's big hit, a ground-rule grand slam.

"It felt really good. I was nervous up at-bat, but then I hit that and I didn't feel nervous," Ortiz said of the hit, which came on her birthday.

The Rangers would hang on for a 14-5 win over Texas in the contest. But the night wasn't just about wins and losses.

Having just completed her freshman year at Mountain View College, this season marked Natalia Cantu's final year of RBI eligibility, and Monday's game at Globe Life Field was her final RBI appearance. The team Texas member took the field for a round of applause from the gathered Academy families.

"This being my last game, it's really emotional. I'm glad I got to play with RBI as long as I could. They really taught me a lot emotionally, physically, and they taught me on and off the field," Cantu said.

Athletes in the Academy's RBI Softball League tried out for the All-Star team as the season was winding down. In a normal year, the All-Star selections would travel to the RBI Southwest Regionals and play for a chance to advance to the RBI World Series.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic came changes to sports programming across the country, and RBI leagues were no exception. So instead of the traditional playoff push, Academy director Juan Leonel Garciga and his staff worked to provide a series of exhibition games for RBI Softball, as well as RBI Senior and Junior Baseball, at Globe Life Field.

"We honestly felt like this year all three of our All-Star teams were ready to compete for a World Series title, and not having a regional tournament was devastating news for many players in their last year of RBI eligibility," Garciga said. "Thankfully my colleagues within the organization, along with a generous contribution from Nike, came together to make this once-in-a-life-time experience happen. They will be the first high school baseball and softball players to play a game at Globe Life Field."

Cantu was a member of last year's Academy RBI All-Star team that won the first game in program history and advanced to the RBI Southwest Regionals Championship. She spent all season working to make this year's All-Star squad.

"I made sure I gave it all I could. Just to get the email [saying I made the team], I was so excited I started crying. Playing at Globe Life Field, the new field, I'm speechless. But I'm very thankful and blessed that I got the opportunity," Cantu said.

Garcia and Cantu were teammates on last year's Academy RBI All-Star squad. Although they were in separate dugouts on Monday, their perspectives on the opportunity to play at Globe Life Field in a year the playoffs were out of the picture was similar.

"It definitely is a bummer, but it just gives you motivation to keep wanting more and more since we were so close. Even now, for me, it's nothing but motivation. It's inspirational. I can take this in the outside world, me heading to college, I can take this out there," Garcia said.

The RBI baseball teams will take the field next, with the Senior Division slated to play Tuesday and the Junior Division on Wednesday.