LA seniors claim RBI championship
Compton team downs Detroit at Land Shark Stadium
MIAMI -- Los Angeles is not only the pioneer for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, but over the past 20 years, it has continued to be the gold standard of the program.
And since it opened its doors in 2006, the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., has been RBI's crown jewel.
Sunday showed why.
Hours after the junior UYA team claimed the crown at the 17th annual RBI World Series, the senior team did the same, flexing its muscle against Detroit early and riding starter Kerry Kelley's complete game for a 9-3 win at Land Shark Stadium to hoist the elusive Larry Doby Trophy.
"I didn't expect to do that good," said Kelley, who gave up three runs in seven innings and was named the game's Most Valuable Player. "I don't know what to think. I'm high up right now."
Added first baseman Pascual Garcia, who finished 2-for-2 with two runs scored and two walks: "Ever since you're small, you dream of being in a Major League stadium, and it feels wonderful to win it."
This was the first year the Urban Youth Academy has fielded a team to compete in RBI, but since the RBI World Series began in 1993, the city-rival L.A. RBI team has claimed a combined 11 titles in the 13-to-15-year-old junior division and 16-to-18-year-old senior division.
At this year's RBI World Series, the two UYA teams combined to go a perfect 12-0.
"It says a lot about the Academy," UYA coach James Bishop said. "We deal with pride and consistency, and as you saw today, Kerry came out and threw a heck of a ballgame, and we played really, really good defense behind him and swung the bats well. You do those two things, you play good defense and you have good pitching, you win ballgames."
The senior UYA team needed a furious four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to beat Chicago in its semifinal game at the Roger Dean Stadium complex on Saturday. But any dramatics were put to rest as early as the second inning, when UYA took a 4-0 lead.
After that Kelley, who struck out six while scattering four hits and two walks, dominated.
"I was hitting my spots," the 17-year-old left-hander said. "Everything was going good, working. They had that rosin bag out there. My hands were sweaty and sticky that whole entire time, but that made it so much easier."
UYA started the second with three straight singles, then plated two runs on an errant throw to first base after a bunt by Dominique Starks. Two batters later, Andrew Disbrow gave his team a four-run lead with a two-run single to left field.
Sporting a 6-1 lead in the fifth, L.A. pretty much put it away when it increased its advantage to eight on a wide throw to first base by Detroit's second baseman, which plated a run, and a two-run single by Cesar Valterra.
After seeing his younger colleagues win it all earlier in the day, Garcia said his team felt extra incentive to do it, as well.
"In my mind, I was like, 'They got it, so we're going to get it, too. We're going to take it all the way,'" he said.
In January, Major League Baseball announced the construction of two more Urban Youth Baseball Academies in Houston and Hialeah, Fla., in hopes of duplicating the success of the one in Compton -- currently the only MLB baseball academy standing.
Later, MLB hopes to spring up several more youth baseball academies all over the country.
Based on Sunday's results, it's clear to see why.
"No. 1, we love kids," Bishop said. "All of us love kids, and we take pride in what we do. We're consistent in our work ethic out there."
Eight of the players on this year's Detroit senior team were on the junior squad in at least one of the years when it won three straight division crowns from 2006-08.
On Sunday, though, coach Mark Brown said his team didn't play like a seasoned champion.
"It's a little disappointing to the fact that I don't really think we played our best baseball, and I don't think we competed as well as we can," Brown said. "But you have to give the other team credit. They're a really good team. ... Whenever we made a mistake, they capitalized on it."
The contest brought an end to the boys' five-day RBI World Series, which started with pool play at the Spring Training home of the Marlins and Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday.
South Florida is a possible destination for next year's RBI World Series, too.
Developed in California in 1989 by former Major Leaguer and scout John Young, RBI looks to promote interest in baseball and use it to keep inner-city youths off the streets. More than 180 RBI participants have been drafted into the Major Leagues in the program's history -- including notables such as Carl Crawford, CC Sabathia, Coco Crisp, James Loney and Justin Upton -- as it annually provides more than 100,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball.
Next up, the girls' 18-and-under softball tournament will get underway with the opening banquet on Monday, and the finals will be held Friday at the Lake Catherine Sports Complex in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
"Fantastic," is what RBI program director David James called the boys tournament. "The competition is phenomenal, it keeps improving every year, but probably to us, most importantly, is the character of these young men that were with us this week. ... That just goes to the mission of RBI -- that we're trying to develop Major League citizens."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.