Major League Baseball's RBI program - Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities - has been around since it was created by John Young in Los Angeles in 1989.
Orangeburg's Nix/Stilton Road Community Improvement Organization is a part of the nationwide youth initiative to "provide young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball."
With Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School's baseball field as the host site, the Nix/Stilton Road Community Improvement Organization held an RBI-sanctioned Home Run Derby on April 13 and a Pitch Hit & Run event on April 27. Local children competed in one of four different age groups, from age 7 to age 14.
Plans are to continue finding interested young people in the area and start a local league of teams competing against each other.
Orangeburg-area RBI local coordinator Ivan Evans has compiled at least two teams of 8 to 12-year-olds who will be playing games this month and through the summer. Plans are to add two more teams in the same age group for the summer of 2020.
"They (MLB) agreed that we are now an official affiliate of the Major League Baseball RBI program, once we applied and were accepted," Evans said. "And by being part of that, what they're doing is sending us some equipment to use for these age groups. It’s basically getting them interested in baseball because, I hate to say it, it’s still for us not a minority game.
"One thing that we’re really gonna stress to our student-athletes is that you've got to stay with the books and keep up in school. You can’t get ahead if you can play the game but you don't know how to read, write or do math. But, based on how they play and how they have their academics, they may play on the local high school baseball team and have the chance to keep playing and get an opportunity to play in college.”
One person who recognizes that opportunity quite well is RBI regional coordinator Antonio Grissom, head baseball coach at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
"We're just trying to get more kids playing baseball, and Major League Baseball is putting a lot of money into making it cost effective for kids to be able to play," Grissom said. "A lot of the initiatives are to get kids pitching, hitting or just running, without it being a game setting, so they can interact with each other on a baseball field.
"The RBI program is another initiative that is more of setting up an affordable league for kids to play in, where they can just get that experience of playing the game at a cheaper price. It's a great opportunity for the city of Orangeburg. Kids can come out and play the game of baseball, toss the ball around and get some swings in, and see if they like the sport before they are even on a team. The next step is the RBI program, where they play on a team. It's a great opportunity for all those kids not playing baseball to get involved."
Tyrone Dash, a member of the Nix/Stilton Road Community Improvement Organization, agrees.
"This is for the kids to get involved now, but it is also a way Major League Baseball is identifying talent at an early age in life," Dash said. "They have provided us with a website, where we will be putting all of the players' and coaches' names. It's really a great thing.
"We went to a conference in Birmingham, Alabama, …and we met kids from all over the country who are doing the same thing. And you actually have two organizations in Columbia, one in North Charleston. We're the one in Orangeburg. So we're trying to get positioned to start a baseball league."
Those interested in the forming of teams and a league are asked to contact Evans at 864-356-0070 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RBI operates more than 300 programs in more than 200 cities, with more than 200,000 participants. Programs run in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and South America.
Winners of the Pitch Hit & Run event in April at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School were as follows: all-around winner - William Bradshaw; individual winners - Pitching, 9-10 yr-olds, Leonides Evans; 11-12 yr-olds, Terrance McFadden; 13-14 yr-olds, William Bradshaw; Hitting, 9-10 yr-olds, Jayden Hallman and Kevin Briggman; 11-12 yr-olds, Cameron King; 13-14 yr-olds, William Bradshaw; Running: 9-10 yr-olds, TyMaury McFadden; 11-12 yr-olds, Tyler Martin; 13-14 yr-olds, Jahleel Staley.