Urban cities struggle for many different reasons stemming from poverty, housing issues, and crime. Most of all, children can become immersed in this detrimental environment without any hope or belief of escaping the difficulties they have faced their entire lives. Cue RBI Baseball, which is a program sponsored by the MLB in order to promote baseball to youths in the inner cities across the country. Since 1991, the program has achieved great success through various leagues, tournaments, and scholarships for its participants year in and year out.
As a participant in the program, I can attest to the noble cause that the MLB undertook with this project. Whether it is the league games against cross town rivals or the collaborative events with the Red Sox, being a participant in the program paid dividends across many different aspects of baseball. By far the highlight of my career with RBI baseball was the regional and national tournaments that I participated in as a young 15 year old.
The local league held tryouts for the Boston All Star team and I was fortunate to make the team with several of my friends. While we traveled to Jersey City for the regional tournament we began to get to know each other and realize that our teammates grew up and lived in drastically different environments than we were used to. As opposed to the occasional neighborhood prank being the cause of worry, these kids literally witnessed some of the worst crime in Boston nearly first hand. One of their games a few weeks prior had to be postponed due to a shooting in the basketball courts in the outfield. Looking back, it was touching to be able to share such special moments such as winning the regional tournament at Yankee stadium and traveling to the RBI World Series at the spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida.
In an age where many professional athletes participate in community service simply for a better PR image, programs like RBI are a refreshing change of pace. Another example is the organization Ice Hockey in Harlem (IHIH). The program’s goal is to promote academic and social development for children in Harlem through teaching the fundamentals of hockey along with other programming. While I cannot speak personally about this program, it appears to be even more beneficial than the RBI program because of the extensive after school programs in addition to the hockey component. By teaching skills such as reading comprehension, math, and history in the context of hockey, students can establish these skills in a different manner than the typical classroom setting.
In conclusion, community outreach programs such as RBI and IHIH provide exemplary means of ensuring the well being of children in urban areas. Not only do they provide a physical outlet for children to express themselves, but it also builds a community outside of what they are used to being surrounded. Additionally, the focus on education through after school programs further helps children in their eventual progression to college.