As fans of professional baseball prepare for an exciting finish to the regular season and look forward to the playoffs, Major League Baseball (MLB) and it’s various clubs and affiliates are capping off another successful season of philanthropic programs and educational initiatives devoted to transforming the lives of students.
A key component of MLB’s community outreach is its focus on youth engagement, and many of it programs center on working with children and teens to instill a love of the game and a commitment to hard work, dedication, and academic success.
Perhaps MLB’s most successful youth outreach program is Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), which since 1989 has reached more than 1 million youth in the US and around the world. The program is designed to increase participation in baseball and softball among underserved youth, encourage academic participation and achievement, and teach youth about the value of teamwork. It’s even helped discover major league talent. As of 2010, MLB clubs had drafted over 185 former RBI youth, with notable alumni including New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Participants in the program also have the opportunity to apply for the ‘RBI (Runs Batted In) for RBI (Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities) Scholarship Fund,’ which provides financial assistance to youth who wish to pursue their postsecondary education.
“We place a great deal of emphasis on education in the initiative and have sponsored these programs in most cities across the country,” said a spokesperson for Major League Baseball. “In addition, most MLB clubs team up with local organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to sponsor RBI programs in their own cities, and many of them have their own educational programs geared towards younger fans.”
Across baseball, most major and minor league teams have incentivized reading programs where students who meet a threshold of books read or hours spent reading receive free tickets to games and other perks.
This summer, the National Education Association teamed up with the Atlanta Braves and the Georgia Association of Educators in a partnership with the Georgia Public Library Service for the 2013 Atlanta Braves Home Run Leaders Summer Reading program. Participating students who read at least one book about sports or sportsmanship are awarded a free ticket to an Atlanta Braves game, with discounted tickets available for family members. The program, which features All-Stars Tim Hudson and Dan Uggla as player ambassadors, encourages students to develop a love and appreciation of reading.
“We know that reading and literacy will provide a platform for success and the keen knowledge to make wise decisions not only in school, but throughout their entire lives,” says Derek Schiller, executive vice president of the Atlanta Braves. “The Atlanta Braves are proud to provide a reward for the hardworking kids in the state of Georgia.”
Registration for these incentivized reading programs is free, and teachers can direct interested students to learn more about the programs from their local baseball teams. While registration for 2013 has already passed, teachers can remind their students to keep an eye out for these programs before the start of the 2014 season in April.
All across the country, professional baseball organizations partner with schools and educational organizations to promote learning.
Students in Northern California have the opportunity to choose from a variety of educational programs offered by the Oakland Athletics, including a “Mathletics” program that blends baseball statistics with classroom math and a “Home Run Readers” program that teachers can enroll in to promote literacy and encourage reading. There’s even opportunities for Athletics players to visit area schools and encourage students to be academically successful.
In Florida, the Miami Marlins are just finishing up the second year of the Marlins Ayudan School Partnership program. The program, which partnered the Marlins with local schools for two years, is an effort by the team to give back to the community as a whole and ensure the Marlins’ commitment to the South Florida community.
“ We work with 8 schools in the Miami area—elementary, middle and high schools—and have a staff of around 180-190 volunteers. Each school has a staff of between 20-30 volunteers who help out with different activities that are important to the schools,” explains Angela Smith, director of Community Outreach for the Marlins.
This past year, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) teamed up with the Philadelphia Phillies to create the first “Educators who Inspire Me” essay contest. Students are asked to write a short essay about an educator that has had a meaningful impact on their life.
“When the team approached us about the contest, one of the comments they made was that education was more important than just a test score,” says Dawn Hiltner of NJEA. “From an association perspective, the partnership gives us a chance to celebrate not just the students, but also all the educators in the schools who are helping them learn. It gives us an opportunity to talk about all the good things happening in schools.”
At the end of May, students at Seaview Elementary School in Linwood, NJ were treated to a pep rally by the Phillies to honor both the winning student and his teacher. Third-grader Ethan Levine won the contest with an essay about his language arts teacher, Tracy Meister. The pair were awarded customized Phillies jerseys with their names embroidered on the back, treated to a school-wide pep rally featuring the Phillies team mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, and were featured on the Phillies “Behind the Pinstripes” show that airs on the jumbotron at Citizens Bank Park before home games. On September 8th, student and teacher will once again be recognized before the start of the Phillies home game on NJEA Day at Citizens Bank Park.
Through the efforts of MLB and its teams, these types of educational programs have helped shine a light on the transformational role that education can play in the lives of students. Whether it’s support student success, or supporting the efforts of schools and educators in the community, the end result is clear—with a bit of hard work and determination, students can achieve almost anything. As Tracey Meister told MLB.com: “This allows them to set goals, and it shows with effort, it could be them one day who is receiving the cheers.”
Educators who are interested in finding out more about MLB’s educational opportunities and community outreach programs should contact their nearest professional baseball club for more information. While not every state has a major league team, there are many minor league teams throughout the country that offer the same programs as their major league counterparts.