Two thrilling, emotional, event-filled and, ultimately, hectic weeks of the RBI World Series had just wrapped up at Target Field in Minnesota on Sunday. And already, Major League Baseball was looking ahead towards 2012, when it would celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program's decorated championship tournament.
A lot of planning remains.
"We really want to celebrate ... not only the history of the program, but the history of the RBI World Series," RBI director David James said. "We really want to make sure we're moving ahead while also having an opportunity to look back and call out the success stories that come out of the program."
Version No. 19 gave the program another heap of them.
For the first time in 2011, the RBI World Series moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, where 24 teams made up three divisions -- senior boys, junior boys and girls softball -- and played on professional-style fields in hopes of winning it all.
In the end, Los Angeles claimed its second straight title in girls softball, the Dominican Republic made it back-to-back championships in the junior baseball division and Venice RBI won its second title in three years on the senior side.
With regards to the memories created for kids who rarely (if ever) get to experience a tournament of this magnitude, that only scratched the surface.
There were elegant banquets featuring luminaries like Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Sharon Robinson; heated down-to-the-wire, elimination games; workouts in front of scouts; tours of the Twins' breathtaking new ballpark, Target Field; and exposure on MLB.com and MLB Network.
A coach from Cleveland said his team had never played on fields this well manicured. And for most members of the senior Venezuela team, it was their first time even getting on an airplane.
"These are memories people will have for a lifetime," Twins executive director of public affairs Kevin Smith said, "and they'll only get better as time goes by."
Now in its 23rd year, RBI provides free baseball and softball opportunities to more than 200,000 kids from ages 5 to 18 all over the United States and the Caribbean.
Events like the RBI World Series, James believes, will only get more people interested in the program -- and, in turn, increase baseball's popularity among younger generations.
"We talk to a lot of people over the course of these two weeks, and even before that during the regional tournaments, and the interest is not wavering at all," James said. "If anything, there's more interest, and I would expect that we would definitely see another significant increase next year."
As for how the RBI World Series will get better next August, when it returns to Minnesota as part of MLB's two-year commitment?
"I have to tell you, it's going to be hard to top , I know that," Smith said. "I don't know what we'll do for next year to make it better, but we have 12 months to figure it out."
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.