Major League Baseball Welcomes “Team Hutch” to RBI Program Buffalo’s Willie Hutch Jones Organization is Newest Member of “Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities”
Buffalo, NY July 1, 2021—Recently Buffalo has been basking in the national media spotlight due to the return of Major League Baseball (MLB) to the Queen City for the first time in 105 years. Today at 11am at Johnny B. Wiley Sports Pavilion Baseball Field MLB is about to turn up the intensity of that local spotlight, by designating Buffalo’s Willie Hutch Jones Educational & Sports Program (WHJESP) as a member of their Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program. MLB Vice President of Baseball and Softball Development, David James, said the decision to add “Team Hutch” to their program was clear-cut.
“When considering the Willie Hutch Jones Educational and Sports Program we researched their mission and their results,” James stated. “What we found was that they are exactly the type of grass roots program we are looking for, to help us build a strong foundation for baseball and softball development in inner city locations across the United States. That’s why we are here making this announcement today. To afford these kinds of opportunities to underserved youth in the Buffalo Community.” The primary mission of the MLB RBI Program is to increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth and promote greater inclusion of youth with diverse backgrounds into the mainstream of the game. They achieve their mission by creating new playing divisions that provide baseball and softball opportunities for children ages 5-12, which also serve as a feeder to the age 13-18 baseball and softball divisions.
Under the leadership and guidance of Buffalo Native and former NBA/LA Lakers Player, Willie “Hutch” Jones, WHJESP has grown to a year-round program offering clinics, academic enhancement, foreign language studies, performance arts, competitive chess, soccer and science clubs, and workshops to enhance social and personal development. Jones notes that the MLB RBI Designation will enhance the reach of their program, as it begins its 37th summer season later this month.
“We have taken major strides over the last three decades in partnering with like-minded organizations such the Omega Mentoring Program, housed at the Wiley Pavilion under Executive Director Cedric Holloway,” Jones said. “Receiving this support for our softball and baseball programs from Major League Baseball will allow us to join with fellow WNY RBI Members, Northtowns and East Aurora Boys and Girls Clubs, in reaching so many more kids. There are girls and boys in our city neighborhoods that will now have an opportunity for better lives because of this program and we are grateful to the MLB for designating us as an RBI affiliate. ”
The RBI Program will be initiated in this summer’s WHJESP baseball and softball clinics beginning July 19th and running through August 20th. They will take place at Johnny B. Wiley Amateur Sports Pavilion’s adjoining Masten Field, Canisius College’s Demske Field, Riverside Park and Shoshone Park Fields. MLB Senior Coordinator for Baseball and Softball Development, Steve Smiegocki, is enthusiastic about adding “The Hutch Team” to the RBI Program.
“I look forward to coming back to Buffalo to continue to help develop programming in both softball and baseball that will impact the youth in the community. One of the beauties of RBI is that it has the flexibility to provide programming locally based on participant’s skill levels. It can be recreational, or it can be more formal league play. We want to make sure every kid has the opportunity to PLAY BALL.”
ABOUT THE WILLIE HUTCH JONES EDUCATION & SPORTS PROGRAM: Willie Hutch Jones, Education & Sports Program provides opportunities for children to reach their full potential through excellent mentorship and exceptional academic, sports and arts programs. For 37 years, the Willie Hutch Jones Educational and Sports Program has provided free year-round programming to under-resourced communities and students in WNY. The program was developed to provide strong positive influences, mentorship, reduce delinquency, build esteem, and offer resources, training, and fundamental skills for positive growth. These activities are provided through year-round afterschool and summer programs, extracurricular activities, virtual programs, annual events, WHJESP Science Fair, and the WHJESP Essay Contest. A foundation of science, technology, engineering art, and math (STEAM) is purposefully incorporated in all our programming. For more information, visit WHJSC.org, or call (716) 715-4980.
ABOUT THE MLB RBI PROGRAM: The MLB RBI Program Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is entering its 33rd year. From its inception in 1989, RBI has grown from a local program for boys in South Central Los Angeles to an international campaign encompassing more than 200 cities and as many as 150,000 male and female participants per year. In 2010, Jr. RBI was launched, designed to create new playing divisions that provide baseball and softball opportunities for children ages 5-12 that also serve as a feeder to the age 13-18 baseball and softball divisions. Major League Baseball, which has administered the RBI program since 1991, serves as the central administrative office for RBI and, from 1993 to 1996, along with Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), provided start-up grants for programs demonstrating financial need. Since the inception of the program, Major League Baseball and its Clubs have designated more than $30 million worth of resources to the RBI program. A large component of the partnership established in early 1997 between Major League Baseball and one of its youth charities, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), was the merger and expansion of youth baseball and softball programs conducted separately by the two organizations. Leagues also motivate participants to stay in school and pursue post-secondary education and school attendance/performance is a requirement for joining and remaining on many RBI teams. RBI has been embraced in so many communities because it teaches kids that being a success in life takes more than succeeding on the ballfield — it also means succeeding in the classroom and in the community. Major League Baseball Charities, Inc. established the RBI for RBI Scholarship Fund in 2007 to help provide financial assistance to youth who participate in the RBI program and wish to pursue secondary education. The RBI for RBI Scholarship provides annual scholarships of up to $5,000 to up to twelve RBI student-athletes who demonstrate academic achievement, leadership qualities and financial need. Since 2008, the RBI for RBI Scholarship program has helped more than 100 RBI student-athletes to enroll in prestigious institutions of higher learning across the country, including: Columbia University, Citadel University, Morehouse College (HBCU), Tuskegee University (HBCU), UCLA, University of Florida, Bucknell University, James Madison University and Wittenberg University. https://www.mlb.com/rbi