“I WON THE RBI SCHOLARSHIP!!!”
That was the text message I received last Friday to kick off the weekend.
Immediately I was overcome with excitement as if it were I who had been awarded the scholarship, telling anyone who would listen how another one of our RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) players had been awarded Major League Baseball’s “RBI for RBI” Scholarship. Megan Diaz, a senior at Miami Senior High School and a third year RBI participant, became the sixth player in the past five years to be awarded this prestigious $20,000 national scholarship presented to notable members nationwide of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program.
In her senior year, Megan served as captain for her high school softball team while excelling in the classroom, maintaining a 5.24 GPA and completing multiple advanced placement classes. Following the RBI season, Megan will be taking her talents up to Gainesville, FL, to attend the University of Florida, where she will study to become a pediatrician. Megan also has aspirations of walking on to the Gators’ softball team.
Personally, receiving the news about Megan was a thrill for me because I had the privilege of serving as her RBI coach for the Miami High School team (my alma mater) during the regular season, and then again on the All-Star team. Last summer Megan made the All-Star team and despite not having played in any of the first three games, she kept a positive attitude, supporting her teammates and staying prepared to contribute when the opportunity presented itself.
In the final game of the tournament, Megan entered as a late game defensive replacement in a tie game in right field. As the softball gods should have it, in the bottom of the 7th inning with two outs and a runner on second, the opposing team smoked a base hit to right field and with the winning run rounding third base, Megan fielded and came up firing. Players came spilling out of the dugout, but not because the game had ended, but because the runner was called out on Megan’s game-saving rocket throw! The game would eventually end in a tie, but it was the program’s first non-loss since 2009, and I could not have been more proud.
Megan shared with me that this was her most memorable moment playing RBI and when asked about it said, “I felt awesome as I ran into the dugout and saw my coach with a smile from ear to ear. I will never forget that moment!”
I hope she also knows that it was one of my most memorable moments not just as a coach, but also since becoming a member of the Miami Marlins.
For more information on the “RBI for RBI” Scholarship visit http://www.mlb.com/rbi
On Cuatro de Mayo, kids from City of Miami Parks and Recreation and Miami PAL were bussed out to Marlins Park for the 2nd Jr RBI Pitch, Hit & Run Competition. This baseball skills challenge measured who could drive the ball the furthest off a tee, throw the most strikes with 6 pitches, and blaze around the bases the quickest. This was a welcomed experience for the kids who had their games rained out from the nasty weather earlier in the week… but on this day, with the ballpark as the backdrop, it was picturesque. At the end of the day 12 kids from 4 different age groups advanced to the sectional round and we hope to see those Jr RBI shirts back at Marlins Park for the on field Regional Championships. The Jr RBI program is supported by Marlins Ayudan volunteers and sponsored by Marlins players Adeiny Hechavarria, Donovan Solano, and Nathan Eovaldi.
I have been playing fantasy baseball since I had access to a computer in my middle school library. I remember in 1997 as a 7th grader taking Raul Mondesi late in the first round because I thought he would be a 30/30 guy (nailed it!). However, after over 15 years of fantasy baseball drafts, none have come close to matching the experience I had with my buddies this year.
Our league commissioner Cory McLaughlin attended the FS Florida Fantasy Auction this past season, bringing a refuse to lose mentality with the prodding of his longtime friend Seth Masson. The bidding went back and forth at the Clevelander inside Marlins Park for the most coveted item: a fantasy baseball draft in the Marlins home clubhouse with special guest Michael Hill, the team’s General Manager. The auction ended when the final out was recorded, and when all was said and done, our league commissioner came out victorious with the winning bid and a sizeable donation for the Marlins Education Fund.
Draft day was finally here and as we all arrived to the ballpark we entered the clubhouse for a catered meal in the club house dining area where the big leaguers eat. With our bellies full we were now ready to enter “the war room” as we took our places in the center of the clubhouse on giant leather recliners armed with pages of draft cheat sheets, pencils, paper, and our self-proclaimed knowledge of who was going to be this year’s breakout fantasy stud. This was many of our first attempts at a live draft and staying focused was key, but how can anyone stay focused when a big league G.M. walks into your draft in the middle of the first round? Mike Hill was, in a word, awesome! Telling stories of past trades in Marlins history, giving advice to the group on who he likes to breakout this year, and even heckling a couple guys for drafting certain players who he felt were a reach. Round after round Mike went around the room looking over peoples’ draft sheets and helping them decide between player x and player z, it was a real thrill for all of us.
In the end, thanks to the Marlins Foundation, we were definitely the only fantasy league in the world to host their draft in a big league clubhouse with an MLB General Manager present… hopefully I will hit on my first rounder like I did back in ’97; c’mon Tulo!
The morning started off rainy and dreary, but volunteers would not be deterred from helping restore a park and baseball field that has been bringing families together for as long as baseball has been a part of this community. Eventually the sun shined through the clouds and allowed us to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by serving others his birthday. I felt a great deal of pride being a part of the event at West Perrine Park with my colleagues at the Marlins and our partners at Miami Dade County Parks & Recreation.
We hope that this renovated ball field will encourage both the youth and role models of this community to once again come out and not only play, but flourish in a sport that at one point was all the buzz at this park. Just ask any of the old school Hellcat players who love sharing stories of when the stands would fill up on Sundays with families coming out to watch baseball after church as part of their family traditions. Now it’s time for new traditions to be formed. In 2013 we, as your home team, want to help bring baseball back to the inner city and return the sounds of baseball echoing throughout West Perrine Park.
Partnering with the Neighbors4Neighbors Adopt-A-Family program, I was given the opportunity do my best Santa impersonation and deliver gifts to 12 families over the course of two days. This was all made possible through the generosity of the Marlins front office and staff (“Marlins Ayudan”), 33 in total. The gifts were donated by everyone from team President David Samson all the way down to a member of our intern class, a contributing blogger, Selena. In addition to the individual contributions, Marlins Ayudan team “Restore Miami” came through by purchasing bunk beds, a laptop and more.
For one young man, the gift of an electronic drum set brought his mother to tears, while she let us know how badly she had wanted to buy a drum set for her autistic son, whose only real outlet seems to be music. In the case of another family who had been sharing one bed and a futon among six people, we were able to provide a bunk bed for the kids to sleep in on the night before Christmas. There was also the teenage mother who is living at home with her younger siblings who was gifted a new stroller and months’ worth of diapers.
I could go on for hours recounting the stories and reactions of these families who were overcome with emotion because of the holiday spirit demonstrated by those who realize the power of giving and the true meaning of the season.
It truly is better to give than to receive… Remember that, and I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.