Results tagged ‘ Youth Baseball ’
Content contributed by Randy Rodriguez, Head Baseball Coach at Miami Carol City High School.
Coach Randy Rodriguez may not be a household name in the South Florida high school baseball scene. His team, the Carol City Chiefs, is not a perennial state championship contender. The program is also not a pipeline to major Division I college programs. Their home games are not littered with scouts holding radar guns and clipboards. In fact, at Miami Carol City High School there isn’t even a baseball field to host practices or home games.
In 2015, what the Carol City Chiefs baseball team did have was two returning players for the spring season: Ayeo Randolph and James Falmer. Although Ayeo, a 5’5″ 140lb outfielder, had finished the 2014 season hitless, he was committed to reinventing his swing and pursuing his dream of playing college baseball. While Ayeo’s mother, an All-Conference MEAC softball player at Florida A&M University, was the first person to teach him the game, the baton was soon passed to Coach Randy to help Ayeo take his game to the next level. By the end of last spring, Ayeo’s game had improved immensely and he motivated his teammates to join him in participating in the Marlins Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) summer program and work towards building something special in Miami Gardens. They were able to field a team led by Coach Randy and while the team finished the RBI Season 0-10, they never wavered in their commitment to show up to every game, play hard, and focus on getting better every inning of every game.
James Falmer was one of those players who was motivated to continue playing over the summer. Falmer may not have had the opportunity to participate in the Marlins RBI program had it not been for Ayeo’s persistence. Despite being a junior at Carol City, 2015 was James’ first year playing baseball and he started the spring season on the JV Team. He would ride his bike to school, practice at an offsite baseball training facility in Miami Gardens, and then travel back home on a daily basis. James’ swing quickly developed, leading to an early promotion to the Varsity Team where he would finish the season as the team’s batting champion, hitting .294. In addition to the on-field success, James spent late nights at the baseball facility completing his homework where he was able to access the Internet. Despite these obstacles, James dreams of one day earning his degree in sports administration and working for a professional sports franchise.
On January 30, 2016, Ayeobele “Ayeo” Randolph and James Falmer will sign letters of intent to play baseball at Morris College, becoming the first Carol City High School baseball players to do so in 10 years. Congratulations to Ayeo, James and Coach Randy!
“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.
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.
Marlins Park may currently be set up for soccer and missing the infield, but that doesn’t mean we are shut down for business. RBI participants came out early Saturday morning to take part in an instructional baseball clinic highlighted by guest instructors Cliff Floyd (Marlins: 1997-2002) and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. The two former Marlins worked the kids out in both the home and visiting batting cages, working on front toss and various hitting drills emphasizing balance and bat speed. The clinic was not limited to the cages, had Marlins bullpen catcher Jeff Urguelles and RBI alumnus/ front office employee Danny Vargas worked with pitchers who had the opportunity to throw off the bullpen mounds. Finally, no clinic would be complete without an on-field defensive component, which the players received from another RBI graduate, George Barber.
This was not a day reserved for merely baseball; following the countless swings and throws, the participants made their way to the dugout club for a special presentation by Jose Correa and the “Play in College” program. It was great seeing the players engaged as they learned about all the opportunities and dollars available for them to continue their pursuit of higher education and playing the sport they love.
For many of these kids it was their first time ever stepping foot on a major league field and I was told by a parent that “surely this will be a day that they will not soon forget…” to which I replied, “They won’t forget it, and don’t call me Shirley.”