Monday, June 16, 2014
- by B.B. Branton
Seven-time National League All-Star Maury Wills grew up in the Washington D.C. projects in the 1940s with hand me down shoes and no real baseball glove or bat.
But thanks to those who over the years cared and came along side to be mentors and role models, plus hard work on the part of Wills, he played 14 years in the major leagues, played on three World Series championship teams (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1959-63-65) and was the 1962 National League Most Valuable Player.
Today, the Chattanooga RBI program - Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities - is helping 1,800 boys and girls ages 3 to 18 learn the game of baseball and softball and have coaches serving as mentors and role models.
Wills is in town for the Southern League All-Star Game (AT&T Field Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.) and will speak at the All-Star Luncheon Tuesday at noon at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
"Whatever I can do to help with the RBI program here and in other cities I'll do," said Wills.
Whether any of the kids in Chattanooga will be another Maury Wills is not known, but what is understood is that the RBI program is a growing, important part of the Chattanooga Youth and Family Development Program.
"Now in our seventh year, the RBI program has 950 boys playing baseball on 47 teams in age divisions 3-18 and 850 girls playing on 54 softball teams in ages 5-18," said Montrell Besley, program director of the Youth and Family Program.
Southern League All-Star Game: A couple of dozen baseball players from the local RBI leagues were able to serve as outfielders during Monday night's Home Run Derby at Engel Stadium.
The youngsters held their own home run derby contest prior to the Southern League players taking aim at the Engel Stadium outfield walls with Tyner middle school student Ledarrius Mason finishing in first place with three round trippers.
7th Season: "I have been part of the Chattanooga RBI program since its start in 1998 when Chattanooga sent a girls softball team to the RBI national tournament in Arizona," said coach Donnell Berry who played baseball at Brainerd (2004-07) and led the city in stolen bases one season with 52.
"This is a great program for our city as we have many people in various communities helping with our teams."
Chattanooga to Host RBI Regional Play: The Regionals for boys and girls 13-15 and 18 and under will be held July 24-27 at various sites, including Notre Dame, McCallie and Warner Park.
The RBI Regional winners advance to the RBI World Series Aug. 7-16 at Rangers Park in Arlington, Texas.
contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@Comcast.net
Teammates congratulate a team member who had just completed his at bat in the Home Run derby
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt