ATL METRO RBI is poised to give new meaning to the term travel ball, as much of youth league baseball today is played on travel baseball teams. At least the elite players are on teams that travel a few miles, and in some cases several thousand miles, to compete against other elite baseball players. Travel ball is all about baseball and acquiring elite baseball skills to advance to collegiate and professional play.
This year, during the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday celebration (January 18–21), a time when the King family has urged the nation “to make it a day of service,” 16 young men ages 13–15 will travel to Puerto Rico on a humanitarian mission.
On their mission, ATL METRO RBI will participate in two professional style showcases and two nine-inning games, and with the help of Mizuno, a leading outdoor and sporting goods company, these young men will deliver aid in the form of baseball equipment to teams in Aguadilla and Carolina, Puerto Rico. The equipment will replace baseballs, bats, shoes, and gloves destroyed two years ago when Hurricane Maria ravished the island.
“I know that Puerto Rico is hot,” 15-year-old Tionne Witherspoon said when asked about the impending trip to the Caribbean island devasted by Maria. Then the 5” 11”, 269 pounds left-handed pitcher added, “I’m looking forward to traveling to a different place and I get to give back to other kids that don’t have what we have over here.”
This humanitarian mission was conceived a year ago by John Hollins, chairman of ATL METRO RBI.
“I came up with this idea following the 2017 storms that hit in the Caribbean islands, but at that time their infrastructure was not strong enough to bring kids. So, looking ahead, I thought what better time to teach kids about rendering service to others than MLK weekend. Mizuno bought into the idea. We introduced the idea to our kids, and they wanted to help young people their age to recover from the storms,” Hollins said.
ATL METRO RBI has been around since 2001, apart from teaching baseball skills, their guiding principle has been: “To develop future leaders through positive mentoring, training and promoting excellence,” so it was not hard for Hollins to sell the kids on the idea of serving others.
“I can’t say enough about Mizuno baseball division Director Tim Rumer for providing thousands of dollars in baseball equipment for the RBI programs in Aguadilla and Carolina,” Hollins said.
A former collegiate pitcher at Georgia State University, Hollins explained, “The boys get to play the game they love and to help others who love the game. Hopefully, the boys will learn from this that being a significant person is more important than personal success,” he added.
Hollins may have hit a home run with at least one of his players. Young Mr. Witherspoon said he plans to organize efforts “to aid the homeless in metro Atlanta” when he returns from the humanitarian trip to Puerto Rico.
And in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., that’s what it’s all about.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Medium, and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at email@example.com