Kansas City’s RBI Baseball program offers chance for inner-city kids to play and grow

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Baseball people say it all the time: "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

That might as well be the mantra at one youth baseball league in the metro, which gives inner city kids a chance to grow in the game. Many players from the RBI Baseball League come from families that might have been overlooked or unwanted elsewhere due to their economic limitations.

RBI Baseball was first formed in Los Angeles in 1989, where it offered inner city African-American kids a chance to play baseball. That was an era where young black athletes were leaning toward other sports instead of the national past-time. Since then, RBI Baseball has spread to more than 200 chapters nationally.

Around the celebrated Satchel Paige Stadium in east Kansas City, no metro kids are turned away, certainly not the ones who call the inner city their home.

More than 1,000 players compete there, ranging from 5-years-old through high school-aged teens. Paige, the Negro Baseball League Hall of Famer, has his name on the building, and his determined face stands as a beacon of opportunity.

Ron Stevenson

"RBI has had a huge impact," Ron Stevenson, director of RBI Baseball Kansas City, said Thursday. "We strive to teach young men to achieve their goals."

Stevenson, a Kansas City native who played college baseball at Alcorn State, has led this league for 10 years, and he's proud that he's seen athletes from varied backgrounds form friendships and work as teammates.

"Baseball is just a vehicle," Stevenson said. "If this vehicle gets you a college scholarship, and you're able to go to school and graduate after four years, that's great because you have a job out in the community."

The proof is in the players.

Malik Stevenson, the league president's grandson, is a shining example since the Park Hill South student just signed a college baseball scholarship with Southern University in Louisiana. During the summer months, the young Stevenson provides the Wolfpack of the RBI Baseball league with a hard-swinging infielder.

Malik Stevenson

"(RBI Baseball) really gives kids opportunities -- kids with lower income families," Malik Stevenson told FOX4's Sean McDowell. "Without this league, I wouldn't be where I am now. It helped me build relationships. I've met a lot of friends who have become my brothers."

Connor Curtis, who attends Van Horn High School in Independence, appreciates the inclusive nature of this league. Curtis, who roams center field for this league's Falcons team, believes the ambition of these athletes is superior to those in other leagues, and the passion comes from its coaches.

"The coaches, they don't just teach baseball. They want you to develop into a man so they can watch you grow," Curtis said.

Connor Curtis

Ron Stevenson, the league president, is known for bragging on his teams and players, and he said he's proudest of those who've become successes away from the diamond.

He said that's because they've taken the lessons they've learned and applied them to their fullest.

RBI Kansas City is currently in the midst of its summer season. League directors, including those at Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, said they'll soon accept applications for off-season baseball training.

If you're interested, here's the club's Facebook page, where you'll find contact info.

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