The Boys and Girls Club of Saskatoon has been selected by Jays Care Foundation to represent the Toronto Blue Jays at the Jr. RBI Classic, a round-robin tournament held at the 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Jr. RBI Classis team is comprised of children and youth from three sites of the BGC Saskatoon; these locations face numerous difficulties, including being localized in areas with high gang activity and lack of useable facilities (many parks in their neighbourhoods are unusable due to hypodermic needles and bloody knives littering the ground.)
The children themselves also deal with a number of issues, including lack of access to organized sport, lack of play opportunities, and even homelessness.
These children, as members of a BGC Club that participates in the Blue Jays Baseball Academy Rookie League, will receive baseball equipment & training from Jays Care, as well as access to recreational programming in a safe, youth space. The Jr. RBI team will be flown to the All-Star Game, where they will be outfitted in team uniforms and spend the week competing against teams representing other MLB franchises. For many participants, it will be their first opportunity to leave their immediate locality, fly on an airplane, stay at a hotel and visit (and play on) an MLB diamond.
In 2012, eleven Rookie Leaguers were given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of representing the Blue Jays Baseball Academy Rookie League program in the Jr. RBI Classic in Kansas City. They were the first Canadian team in the tournament's history! For six weeks, the Rookie League team honed their baseball skills in preparation for the friendly, round-robin tournament and took what, for many of them, was their first trip outside Toronto. The team had many awesome experiences, including: meeting Paul Beeston and Joe Carter, participating in the Jr. RBI Classic Opening Ceremonies and clinic at Satchel Paige Stadium, watching the MLB All-Star Futures and Celebrity Softball games, touring the Negro League Baseball Museum and watching the MLB Home Run Derby. One of the Rookie League players, Faris, received a batting lesson from Tony Gwynn, and his essay was one of two selected in the Jr. RBI Classic essay-writing competition with a grand prize of catching fly balls in the Home Run Derby!
If you'd like to experience first-hand the journey of these 11 boys, watch Sportsnet's "Diamonds in the Rough" documentary, a moving story of heart, hope and baseball, narrated by Ricky Romero. This 30-minute feature follows the team, capturing the highlights of the experience.