Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) will be entering its 26th year of play in 2015. From its inception in 1989 through the 2015 season, RBI has grown from a local program for boys in South Central Los Angeles to an international campaign encompassing more than 200 cities and as many as 200,000 male and female participants a year. In 2010 Jr. RBI was launched, designed to create new playing divisions that provide baseball and softball opportunities for children ages 5-12 that also serve as a feeder to the current RBI 13-18 baseball and softball divisions.
John Young, a former Major League Baseball player and scout, developed the concept of RBI to provide disadvantaged youth an opportunity to learn and enjoy the game of baseball. Mr. Young decided that the best way to revive baseball in South Central LA would be to introduce a comprehensive youth baseball program for 13- to 16-year-olds. This program would not only encourage participation in baseball and expand the pool of talented prospects, but, more importantly, it would provide young people with a positive, team-oriented activity that would keep them off the streets while challenging them mentally and physically. Major League Baseball endorsed the RBI concept and provided financial support for the program, as did the Los Angeles Dodgers and the City of Los Angeles. While the youth of Los Angeles were initially a little skeptical – only 11 showed up for the first tryout – they gradually began to embrace RBI, and 180 kids participated the first season.
Major League Baseball, which has administered the RBI program since 1991, serves as the central administrative office for RBI and, from 1993 to 1996, along with Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), provided start-up grants for programs demonstrating financial need. Since the inception of the program, Major League Baseball and its Clubs have designated more than $30 million worth of resources to the RBI program. Former National League President Leonard Coleman was the first Major League Baseball executive to run the RBI program. Thomas C. Brasuell, Vice President of Community Affairs for Major League Baseball, managed the day-to-day administration of the program until 2008. In April of that year, David James became the first Director of RBI at MLB, a testament to the League’s dedication to the RBI program.
A large component of the partnership established in early 1997 between Major League Baseball and one of its youth charities, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), was the merger and expansion of youth baseball and softball programs conducted separately by the two organizations. Off the field, local leagues also teach RBI players life skills through Sport Smart! — a condensed, easy-to-use version of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s award-winning SMART (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) Moves program. Developed for RBI, SportSmart! addresses the issues of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and HIV/AIDS prevention and education for 13- to 18-year-olds.
RBI leagues also are provided with a community version of Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life; a character education program based on the values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson. It is designed to teach children the values and traits they need to deal with barriers, obstacles and challenges in their lives. Other off-field programs are provided by the Partnership for Drug Free Kids with their Time to Talk, Play Healthy, and Not in my House character education programs aimed at preventing and handling drug and alcohol abuse. The Taylor Hooton Foundation’ Hoot’s Chalk Talk raises awareness and provides education on the subject of the use of APEDs.
Leagues also motivate participants to stay in school and pursue post-secondary education, and school attendance/performance is a requirement for joining and remaining on many RBI teams. RBI has been embraced in so many communities because it teaches kids that being a success in life takes more than succeeding on the ballfield — it also means succeeding in the classroom and in the community.
Major League Baseball Charities, Inc. established the RBI (Runs Batted In) for RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities) Scholarship Fund in 2007 to help provide financial assistance to youth who participate in the RBI program and wish to pursue secondary education. The RBI for RBI Scholarship provides annual scholarships of up to $5,000 to up to twelve RBI student-athletes who demonstrate academic achievement, leadership qualities, and financial need. Since 2008, the RBI for RBI Scholarship program has helped 88 RBI student-athletes to enroll in prestigious institutions of higher learning across the country, including: Columbia University, Citadel University, Morehouse College (HBCU), Tuskegee University (HBCU), UCLA, University of Florida, Bucknell University, James Madison University, and Wittenberg University.
Since 1998, Major League Baseball has fielded a national RBI team that has participated in the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars and its predecessor, the National Amateur All-Star Baseball Tournament (NAABT). The USA Baseball Tournament of Stars, held each June, showcases the top 16- to 18-year-old players from (in addition to RBI) the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), American Legion, Babe Ruth Baseball, Dixie Baseball, National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF), PONY Baseball, and at-large teams from USA Baseball, the governing body of amateur baseball.