The first installment for Halo HQ from The BakerBoys&Baseball explores the Angels RBI League. If you are not familiar with The BakerBoys&Baseball, these articles will cover the adventures and experiences in baseball of Zac and Steve Baker. You can read our story here: http://baseballboy.mlblogs.com/. We will both be contributing to the articles. We aim to provide an in depth look into the game, including charities supported by the players and teams, professions in the game outside of being a ball player, and a peak into the lives of the players.
This past Saturday, Zac attended the Angels Youth Baseball Camp. The proceeds from the camp go to support the Angels RBI League. Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) are Major League Baseball youth outreach programs that have been started in more than 200 cities worldwide, and annually provide more than 260,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball and softball. Each Major League team has an affiliation with a local RBI league. After the camp, we got to talk with Dave Smith, the President of the Angels RBI League.
Before we get into Dave’s Story and the RBI League, we want to tell you about the Angels Youth Baseball Camp (AYBC). This is the second year Zac has attended one of the AYBC events. Not taking away from any other single day baseball camps with professional baseball players or team affiliations, but in our opinion, hands down the AYBC provides the best baseball instruction, with pro baseball players and coaches providing hands on instruction. Oh, and did we mention, the camp takes place on the field at Angels Stadium!
Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker, Taylor Featherston, and Dino Ebel worked the camp which featured seven stations. The stations were: speed and agility, base running, pitching, hitting, catching, pop ups, and ground balls. Hector and Matt worked the pitching station, where the kids got to pitch from the bullpen mounds. Dino worked the hitting station and Taylor worked ground balls.
The campers were broken up into seven groups based on age and ability and then rotated through the seven stations. In addition to the Angels players and Dino, players from local area colleges worked the camp providing valuable hands on instruction. At the end of the work at each respective stations with the Hector, Matt, Taylor, and Dino every kid got the chance to get an autograph.
Zac had so many great moments during the camp. I asked him what was his favorite moment from the day. So what stood out as the highlight of the day to an eight year old at the camp: Was it receiving complements on his pitching mechanics from Hector Santiago? How about working on turning double plays with Taylor Featherston? Telling Matt Shoemaker he thinks his beard is cool? Letting Dino Ebel know we were hitting the road to follow the team to Phoenix? Hanging out in the Angels dugout? While those moments were all a part of what made the day a great one for Zac, none of those got topping billing. That moment arrived at the end of the fly ball station.
A few kids from each group were randomly selected to catch soft vinyl balls fired from the cannons by members of the Angels Strike Force Girls. These are the same balls fired into the stands during the seventh inning stretch during games. Despite attending many games each year, Zac has never received one of these balls at a game. If the kid selected caught the ball, then he or she got to keep it. If the ball was dropped, it was then thrown three flies up style into the dozens of kids not selected. Zac did not get picked as one of the kids, but was determined to get one of the balls thrown in to the pile. Instead of positioning himself in the middle of the group and trying to fight for the ball, he positioned himself to the outside of the group and followed the trajectory of the ball and waited patiently for one ricocheted in his direction. Finally, his chance came on the second to last ball for the group. Unfortunately, after taking an elbow to the jaw he didn’t secure the ball and it was quickly snatched up another eager participant. Zac picked himself up and shook off the stars, knowing there was only one more shot. Sure enough the last kid didn’t secure the ball and it was launched toward the group. Zac took up position to the right flank of the front edge of the group. The ball kicked out of the pile right towards his area and landed several feet away. Zac sprinted toward the ball and then went airborne, landing with the ball under his stomach. Not having the ball completely secured as 10-12 others dog piled, Zac emerged triumphantly with his prize.
Typically, the Angels RBI League hold this camp twice during each baseball season. The next one is on Saturday, September 26, 2015. If you have a youngster, the camp is for kids ages 8-18, who loves baseball, you won’t find better value and you get to support a great cause. Not to mention, a chance at making your own great memories on the field at Angels Stadium with current players and coaches, and of course a shot at getting your own ball at the bottom of a dog pile. You can register for the camp here: http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/ana/community/rbi_camp.jsp.
We wanted to learn more about the Angels RBI League and the work done in the community, so we reached out to Dave Smith and he was happy to share his story and information about the RBI League. The mission statement for the Angels RBI league is “To inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, the opportunity to learn and play baseball and softball in a friendly and supportive environment which fosters life skill and character development.” The Angels RBI League has provided over 10,000 kids who would not otherwise have the chance, the opportunity to play baseball and softball. As a collaboration between Angels Baseball, Major league Baseball and other youth development agencies throughout the Southern California area. The league specifically targets underserved youth and provides them a comprehensive athletic experience at no cost.
Randomly, we met Dave and his sons at an Angels game last season just before Zac attended the AYBC last year. Coincidentally, Dave grew up in San Clemente and graduated from San Clemente High School in 1989. I graduated San Clemente High School in 1993. Dave always had a passion for baseball, playing Little League and P.O.N.Y. as a kid. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Administration from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Master’s Degree in HPERS (Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Sports) from Middle Tennessee State University. Zac had to ask Dave if that was a real thing.
After working as the Athletic Director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley, Dave started full time with the Angels RBI League in 2004. When Dave took over the program, participation numbers were low, less than 250 kids with only 16 teams in the five divisions. With sponsorship and affiliation with Angels, the low attendance was an area that needed to immediately be addressed. Dave reached out to the local area Boys and Girls Clubs, School Districts, and other Independent Organizations to create awareness and promote the program. In 2005, the participants had increased to 450 kids and in 2006, 650 kids. From 2006-present, the number of kids participating in the Angels RBI League peaked at 800 kids and has consistently stayed in the range of 650-800 kids. In 2012, the program was expanded incorporating year round baseball adding regional All Star teams that compete in the summer.
The Angels RBI League has five divisions over three age groups, the Jr. RBI which is a co-ed program for 4th and 5th graders designed to be a recreational introduction to baseball, the Jr. Division in both baseball and softball for ages 12-15, and the Sr. Division in baseball and softball for ages 16-18. The leagues are run by the local organizations, with the Angels RBI League providing the infrastructure, including coaches, uniforms, game schedules, and securing field space when necessary. Two dedicated fields have come directly from the support of former Angels Darin Erstad, Erstad Field in Garden Grove, CA and Torii Hunter, Torri Hunter Field at Kraemer Field in Placentia, CA. According to Dave, “the goal is to support as many teams as possible”.
The opportunities afforded through The RBI League mirror MLB and USA Baseball’s new campaign Play Ball. Dave said that “since the new MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, took over the mission has been clear to give kids the opportunity to play baseball”. The RBI League is a front line warrior in this movement. Allowing those without the economic means and in many cases the family support to play this great game. Reported by MLB.com, “Since the inception of the RBI program in 1989, MLB Clubs have drafted more than 200 RBI participants, and more than 70 players since 2008. Alumni on MLB rosters during the 2014 regular season include Michael Bourn (Cleveland Indians), Carl Crawford (Los Angeles Dodgers), Coco Crisp (Oakland Athletics), Yovani Gallardo (Milwaukee Brewers), James Loney (Tampa Bay Rays), Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles), Anthony Rendon(Washington Nationals), CC Sabathia (New York Yankees), Hector Santiago (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Tyler Skaggs (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and Justin Upton(Atlanta Braves). Crawford (Houston RBI – ’97), Loney (Houston RBI – ’99), Crisp (LA RBI – ’95, ’96) and Gallardo (Fort Worth RBI – ’03) have each played in the RBI World Series.” The program also gives access to players that may be overlooked.
The Angels RBI League sent it’s Sr. team to the RBI World Series game. While the Angels team lost 7-3 to the Jackie Robinson RBI of Jersey City, N.J., there were college scouts in attendance. The additional exposure playing for the RBI League, allowed for college scholarship opportunities for kids that had been overlooked.
In addition to the Angels Baseball Youth Camp, there are many ways to support the Angels RBI League, you can join the many generous supporters and make a donation to the Angels RBI League or attend the just announced Angels Uprising, an art exhibit using baseball as a canvas that will take place July 13, 2015, 6:00pm-9:00pm at Cafe TuTu Tango in Orange. For more information contact Angels RBI office at 714-619-8416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angels RBI Impact Story
The next installment from the BakerBoys and Baseball will be out soon, covering our four game home and away series of the Angels and Diamondbacks. Highlighted in the trip will be our interview with Josh Rawitch the Sr. Vice President of Communications with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the mean time, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!