For the first 25 days in December, the Indians will highlight one community partner
organization and how you can give back this holiday season.
Play Ball Indiana, Indy’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program has been around in some form since 1982. You could argue that 2012 was the most impressive year in the organization’s 30-year history.
In the spring, PBI found a new home on the near east side of town. Forest Manor Park, located just east of 21st and Sherman, had vacant or little used baseball facilities, the remnants of a little league that had closed up shop a few years ago. With hard work, dedication, lots of TLC, and a generous contribution from the folks at Lids, Lids Sports Complex became the new home of the PBI Jr. RBI program.
The Jr. RBI program is designed to get kids aged 5-12 playing baseball at an early age. While learning the sport is important, it’s not the only priority of the program. Life skills, developing physically fit kids, and developing a sense of community are just as important, if not more so. Thanks to the generosity of corporate donors like Lids, Deloitte, and other various levels of donors, children were able to play in a full league season with MLB-inspired team names and uniforms for $25.
This program serves as a precursor to the Sr. RBI program, which serves teens from 13-18 in both baseball and softball. These teams have been in existence for some time, but can utilize the facilities available at Lids Sports Complex as well.
For the senior teams, they play against other high school level competition, highlighted by regional tournaments sponsored by MLB throughout the Midwest. Tournament locations have included Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh over the last few seasons.
The RBI initiative was launched by Major League Baseball nearly 20 years ago to help bring back disadvantaged youth into the sport. PBI has fulfilled that mission in Indianapolis by providing opportunities for young men and women to play a level of baseball and softball comparable to travel baseball/softball at a fraction of the cost.
There are numerous success stories of players advancing their careers to play at the collegiate level. Through baseball or softball, the dream of a college education, or even the idea of continuing one’s education has become a reality for those that wouldn’t have had that opportunity without PBI. For some players, travelling away from Indianapolis for the first time has been a major milestone.
So, how can you help? PBI is always looking for volunteers. Have an interest in coaching softball or baseball? How about serving as an umpire for a game? We can always use people or companies simply to take care of field maintenance, or even work the concession stand during a game.
We could also use your dollars. Lids Sports Complex is certainly a repeatable model in other areas of town. PBI is currently in talks to develop a near west side facility. The goal is to have numerous fields, leagues, and teams throughout the city. New programs could include more offseason training for players, and more opportunities for teams to travel, an invaluable experience for young men and women who wouldn’t normally have that opportunity.
For more information, please visit www.PlayBallIndiana.org, or call our Executive Director, Mike Lennox at: (317)769-2560. We’d also love to see you at one of our many fundraising events throughout the year, including our special tribute to Jackie Robinson at the IRT on January 19. Or even take in a ball game at Lids Sports Complex in the spring and summer of 2013. Whatever your level of involvement might be, simply getting involved is a win for our organization, and for the youth of Central Indiana.