Sometimes, David James will admit, the rapidly increasing numbers for the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program can be "a little daunting," considering the goal to provide baseball and softball opportunities gets tougher when there are more children to provide for.
But that's a trade-off Major League Baseball will always welcome.
A new RBI campaign has already begun in several warm-weather states across the country, and the rest should get going by next month. For its 22nd season, the RBI program expects to have 300 leagues and about 200,000 kids ages 5-18 participating -- an increase from roughly 171,000 last year and an all-time high.
James, RBI's director, considers that a good problem.
"We have to step up our game here in making sure these folks have what they need to operate these programs successfully," he said. "But we know that Major League Baseball's efforts are working. The participation is really increasing."
A big part of that increase stems from 2010.
Last season, RBI implemented the Junior RBI program for ages 5-12, which eventually provided an 84.8-percent participation increase from 2008-10. By the time this season ends, James estimates that about half the RBI participants will have come from that Junior RBI division, something he believes "bodes really well for the future of the program, that we're engaging kids at a younger age; and hopefully we'll keep them involved in the game longer."
RBI, established by former player and scout John Young in 1989, aims to offer free baseball and softball programs to underserved youth in hopes of steering them away from a potential childhood of drugs and violence. MLB also believes that if it can better promote the game to younger age groups, the interest and participation will grow, and thus the talent pool will eventually be even richer.
Programs like RBI and facilities like the Urban Youth Academies look to foster that idea.
"I want, and Commissioner [Bud] Selig has made sure, that all of us work to bring baseball back to Urban America," MLB executive vice president of baseball development Jimmie Lee Solomon previously said. "The opportunity that baseball provides should be there."
For this year, the application deadline for the "RBI for RBI" scholarship has been moved back two weeks, to April 15.
More than $1 million kids have come through RBI since the program's expansion, and more than 185 -- including prominent big leaguers like Carl Crawford, CC Sabathia and Jimmy Rollins -- have been taken in the First-Year Player Draft.
MLB and its clubs have designated more than $30 million worth of resources in the history of the program, which also has leagues in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As it did last year, the Junior RBI Classic will move to the site of the All-Star Game, which in 2011 will take place Arizona. There, 12 teams - eight baseball, four softball - of 11- and 12-year-olds will compete in a tournament, then participate in All-Star Game Week festivities.
The RBI World Series for the older players, which has been held in Jupiter, Fla., the last two years, will also have a new home. But MLB will announce that location, as well as the locations for the regional tournaments, at a later date.
Leagues normally last until August, with tournament play beginning in late July.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.