The world of youth baseball and those who love the sport saw a sad day with the death of John Young, the founder of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI). Young died Sunday at the age of 67. Young played professional baseball for the Detroit Tigers in the early 1970s. He was also one of the few Blacks who worked in the front office and in the national scouting field. Young noticed the significant decline of Blacks in the sport and the decline of Black draftees during the 1986 MLB draft. He presented a report that showed that the Major League Baseball organization should and could be doing more to bring in more Black participation in the sport. MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth agreed and soon John Young founded RBI with a grant of $50K from the MLB.
In 1989, Young organized 12 teams consisting of 180 participants between the ages of 13 and 14 across southern California. RBI provided young children in underserved and diverse communities the chance to play baseball and softball. The organization received the support of enthusiastic players such as Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis, who donated time and money to the effort. The organization expanded across the country and into Canada, the Caribbean and South America. MLB took over operation of RBI as the program grew in popularity and scope. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement:
“All of us at Major League Baseball are saddened by the loss of John Young, a trailblazer and champion of both professional and youth baseball. Following a championship collegiate baseball career (at Chapman College) and a Minor and Major League playing career that spanned from 1969 through 1978, John became the first African-American director of scouting when he was hired by the Detroit Tigers in 1981. He went on to scout for several clubs, including the Marlins, Rangers, Padres and Cubs, signing 21 future Major Leaguers to their first professional contracts. His “most enduring accomplishment,” though, was founding the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program.”
RBI has a direct impact in baseball with notable alumni that include professional players CC Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins, Coco Crisp, James Loney, Carl Crawford, B. J. Upton, Justin Upton, Julio Borbon, Efren Navarro, Ricky Romero, Yovani Gallardo, Chris Young, James McDonald and many others.