Play Ball Indiana Turns 30!
Play Ball Indiana turned 30 on March 12. Originally formed in 1982 as the Indianapolis Amateur Baseball Association, Play Ball Indiana has had a long history in developing youth baseball and softball in the Indianapolis Metro area. Former All-American college baseball player Milt Thompson and Indianapolis businessman Jim Young founded the organization to originally get high school baseball teams playing during the summer. Later, the mission expanded to rebuilding baseball in the Indianapolis inner city.
One of the highlights of the early years was the construction of Kaufman Stadium on the campus of Marian University in 1989. Another highlight was becoming an affiliate of Major League Baseball’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program in 1997.
Since its founding, it is estimated that over 45,000 Indianapolis area youth have been served by Play Ball Indiana.
Celebrate Our 30th Year by Sponsoring an RBI Player
In honor of our 30th year, Play Ball Indiana is asking everyone to consider sponsoring an RBI player for $30. The goal of our “$30 for 30 Years Campaign” is to raise $45,000 by July 1 for our anticipated 1500 RBI participants in 2012.
Every donor who contributes $30 (or higher) will be assigned an RBI player for the season along with the player’s picture and team details. (Or anonymous is fine too.) The RBI Indianapolis league administrators and its volunteer coaches will update the donors on his or her player’s progress and special news, including invitations to games.
Jr. RBI to Expand this Spring
Three years ago Major League Baseball created the Jr. RBI program geared for youth ages 5-12. Since then the program has grown to over 91,000 youth throughout the world, and should experience huge growth again this year.
Last year Play Ball Indiana began a modest Jr. RBI program of six teams during the spring and a site for t-ball during the summer. We entered a team in the Jr. RBI Classic, which was hosted by Major League Baseball in Phoenix, Arizona during the All-Star break. The Indianapolis Pirates played against other teams from San Francisco, Delaware, Joplin and Arizona. (Be sure to check out the archived stories from this trip on our website.)
But this year, thanks to the efforts of Bob Haney, Theresa Weinzerl, Paul Hacker, Eric James, Drew Weingarten and Jeremy O’Day, the RBI Indianapolis Jr. RBI program should grow rapidly. Last fall Play Ball Indiana met with Indianapolis Public Schools athletic director Victor Bush about partnering to build participation at the younger age levels. IPS is interested in building a feeder program for the IPS middle and high schools.
The goal is to grow the league to 30 teams during the spring and add 5-6 new t-ball sites during the summer. Sign-ups are currently underway at the Shepherd Community Center, the Near Eastside Community Center at Tech High School, and Brookside Community Center. Teams will be formed in early April and games will start in early May. Jr. RBI will include boys and girls teams in Pee Wees (ages 5-7), AA Division (ages 8-9), AAA Division (ages 10-11) and Majors (ages 12-13). League games will run through late June, and a season ending tournament is planned for early July.
Play Ball Indiana is excited to have Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and Tabernacle Recreation as participating partners in the Jr. RBI program. Both churches will be entering teams. The Police Athletic League is also expected to enter some teams.
Major League Baseball hosted the RBI Institute in early March in San Diego. Mike Lennox (executive director) and Bob Haney (RBI baseball coordinator) represented Play Ball Indiana. Over 400 RBI league administrators from around the world attended the event, which was hosted by the San Diego Padres. League administrators came as far away as Hawaii, Japan and Venezuela.
There were a number of workshops designed to help local RBI leagues better serve their youth including a session on how to “create Major League citizens,” how to work with parks and school districts, the “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” character building program, the RBI for RBI college scholarship program, and other educational programs available to RBI youth. The Positive Coaching Alliance and Good Game made presentations on how to better train coaches on how to best interact with today’s youth.
There were two full sessions dedicated to the growing Jr. RBI and softball programs. According to MLB, the Jr. RBI program included over 91,000 youngsters ages 5-12, and there were 80 RBI softball leagues in 2011.
One of the highlights of the event was the opportunity for Bob Haney to meet and talk with Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson. Other highlights included: the fantastic venue for the event (San Diego Sports Hall of Champions), the opening reception and tour of Petco Park, and a special dinner at the U.S. Marine Corps base. A vendor’s tradeshow also took place during the sessions, and afforded league people a chance to meet with representatives from Pitch Hit & Run, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, Majestic Sports, Rawlings, Wilson, OYO Sports Toys, and the Partnership for DrugFree.com.
Major League Baseball hosts the RBI Institute every other year, and covers most of the expense of attending for the leagues.
Join Us as We Ring in the New Year…er Baseball Season
The Rathskeller will again be the site of our baseball season opening celebration, as the ales are raised, and everyone’s team is still in the pennant race…..even the Mariners and Padres. Join us, and help us celebrate the Indianapolis Indians opening day on Fri. Apr. 13 from 5-7pm. Enjoy appetizers and beverages, and get an update on the RBI baseball program including the newly expanded Jr. RBI program. The cost is just $30 in advance or $35 at the door.