If you haven’t heard, the MLB All-Star Game is not just about the big leaguers anymore. Starting earlier this week and running through Monday, Major League Baseball is hosting the third annual Jr. RBI Classic, consisting of young baseball and softball teams from various inner cities across the country, including a team of disadvantaged boys from San Francisco.
Teams for the tournament are comprised of 11-12-year-olds from urban areas who participate in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, MLB’s youth initiative created to give at-odds boys and girls, ages 5-18, the opportunity to play baseball and softball while encouraging their education.
San Francisco’s RBI program, established just last year, has a team of 12 boys from the SOMA elementary school Bessie Carmichael, where 20 percent of the school’s children are considered homeless, and 75 percent are on free or reduced lunches.
This will be the boys’ time to shine, as they were scheduled to play six noncompetitive games throughout the event at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Arizona, the shared spring training site of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. The team will wear replica Giants jerseys and be led on the field by former professional athlete and executive director of San Francisco RBI, Jim Messemer.
“There’s going to be a variety of different things that the boys will be exposed to in the next five days,” Messemer said this week before the team departed to Phoenix.
He says the team from Bessie Carmichael, one of only nine cities invited to play in the baseball side of the tournament, will watch many All-Star events and even have the chance to meet All-Star players like the Giants’ own Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson. All-Star festivities beginning to pick up Monday with the Home Run Derby, before the All-Star Game takes center stage Tuesday.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable experience,” Messemer said.
While baseball and softball is what makes the initiative fun for kids, Messemer says the biggest goal is to see the young people that pass through the program succeed in school, and in life.
“Our primary adjective is to make sure that our children graduate from high school, graduate from college, and become work ready,” Messemer said. “We want to produce productive citizens.”