Eric James has a dream. As the park manager at Forest Manor Park where RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) games are played, he wants to see the Indianapolis program become the best in the country. With nine years’ involvement and currently directing the Minors division he has seen all the ups and downs that come with being a community outreach program.
He has seen playing fields in disrepair, shortages of volunteers, and a lack of corporate sponsorships. He also has witnessed great growth in the program with an increase in child and parent involvement and more corporate sponsors, and as a result, the Indianapolis RBI program has improved to be one of the top 20 programs in the country out of a total of 219.
James understands the needs of the organization and the costs associated with an undertaking involving at least 20 teams and over 200 young people. He knows the importance of having good people participating as coaches, umpires, and other volunteers. James has ventured into various communities to recruit coaches and teams to join the RBI program. He has brought people in from other underprivileged areas or teams that did not have a league in which to play. One of those people is Eric’s long-time friend Amos Howard, a first year participant with RBI.
Howard, a retired metal worker, had been coaching football for 14 years. There was no league for 8-10 year olds on Indy’s east side where Howard used to coach. He decided to accept the challenge of coaching baseball and bring his team to Forest Manor Park. Howard believes in the importance of sportsmanship and teamwork and how those qualities turn young boys into good men later in life. He enjoys coaching with RBI where he can contribute his knowledge and experience and his passion is a must. Coach Howard’s passion is obvious on the field and when asked about the season and the challenges that came with it, he didn’t hesitate. “I’m already looking forward to next year.”
The challenges associated with RBI and its mission can be frustrating. James says he considered giving up once, but his son, an alumnus of RBI, changed his mind. “He said, ‘Dad, what about your dream?’” That dream of one day being the number one RBI program in the country keeps him going. James sees large growth potential for next year, perhaps doubling in size. He plans to visit local churches, schools, and community centers to recruit more good people like Amos Howard to continue to grow the program. With the passion and hard work these individuals display, it certainly seems possible for a dream to come true.