It was a crazy end to a very memorable week. After giving up four runs to Harrisburg in the top of the first inning, Dominican Republic countered by notching three runs of their own — a single and a walk followed by a three-run home run — in the bottom of the first.
Dominican Republic was able to tie up the game in the bottom of the second but Harrisburg took the lead once again in the top of the fourth inning and held onto it until the bottom of the fifth inning when Dominicana blasted their second home run of the afternoon to take the lead 7-6.
Just a year after losing in the finals to Los Angeles RBI, the Dominican Republic RBI women were able to hold off the rally and take the game with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
The championship match up is set! Congratulations to Dominican Republic and Harrisburg RBI for advancing to the 2012 RBI World Series Championship! The two teams are set to play Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium at the University of Minnesota.
Dominican Republic takes a perfect record into the championship, notching eight wins throughout their run in Minnesota. This isn’t their first trip to ‘ship — they played in last year’s championship game where they lost to Los Angeles RBI.
Harrisburg finished first in their division, losing just one game to Cleveland on the last day of regular play. The Harrisburg RBI program was represented in all three divisions this year in the RBI World Series, sending both Senior & Junior League baseball teams during last week’s baseball tournament. Neither of the boys’ teams advanced past the first round of playoffs.
Last week, the 16 RBI baseball teams in Minneapolis took part in the RBI program’s first-ever service project in honor of the 20th anniversary of the RBI World Series. Today it was the ladies’ turn to give back. The teams spent the morning volunteering at Kids Against Hunger & ARC’s Value Village, two organizations that have found success helping the community — both locally and internationally.
I joined the four teams at Kids Against Hunger in New Hope, an organization that packages meals to be distributed throughout the world. Their goal is to significantly reduce the number of hungry children in the United States while working to simultaneously feed starving children throughout the world. They are currently sending food packages to the Philippines, but in recent months have done significant work in Dominican Republic and even Joplin, Missouri.
Last week, four baseball teams joined forces with Kids Against Hunger to help feed over 24,000 people. Today the women beat that by packaging more than 26,000 meals — enough food to feed 68 children for an entire year. The teams will head to Target Field tonight to watch the Minnesota Twins host the Tampa Bay Rays and as one of the Kids Against Hunger volunteers pointed out — The RBI World Series participants have helped feed more people than Target Field can hold on any given night. A pretty awesome accomplishment.
Here are the final standings for both the American League Central and the National League Central, followed by the match-ups for Saturday’s first round of playoffs. The games will be held at 8:30 a.m. with the semi-finals set to begin at 11:30 a.m.
American League Central:
National League Central:
Dominican Republic 6-0
Mathews Dickey 0-6
Houston (#3 AL) vs. Cleveland (#2 NL) — Neiman #3
Hoboken (#4 NL) vs. Dominican Republic (#1 AL) — Neiman #4
Mathews Dickey (#4 AL) vs. Harrisburg (#1 NL)– Dunning #1
Hawaii (#3 NL) vs. Atlanta (#2 AL) — Dunning #2
Harrisburg 9, Hawaii 0
Cleveland 5, Hoboken 2
Atlanta 9, Mathews Dickey 4
Dominican Republic 4, Houston 2
Cleveland 6, Hawaii 2
Harrisburg 2, Hoboken 1
Atlanta 2, Houston 0
Dominican Republic 15, Mathews Dickey 0
The first day of games are in the books, leaving two of the softball teams undefeated in division play. Both Dominican Republic and Harrisburg notched two wins, Dominican defeating Atlanta and Houston while Harrisburg picked up wins against Cleveland and Hawaii. Atlanta, Cleveland, Hoboken and Houston all split their day while Hawaii and Mathews Dickey ended the day 0-2.
The teams continue their division play tomorrow with two more games tomorrow, set to start at 10:45 a.m and 1 p.m.
Scores from today:
Harrisburg 7, Cleveland 2
Hoboken 4, Hawaii 2
Dominican Republic 7, Atlanta 6
Houston 5, Mathews Dickey 1
Harrisburg 6, Hawaii 0
Cleveland 2, Hoboken 0
Atlanta 11, Mathews Dicky 1
Dominican Republic 5, Houston 2
Just days before Cleveland was set to compete in the East Regional Tournament, they lost a crucial member of their team when 18 year-old Melissa Caraballo, one of the team’s captains, broke her ankle crossing home plate. It was a setback that would have shaken many teams, especially with a trip to the RBI World Series on the line.
Taking out Cincinnati by one run in extra innings of the East Regional championship game, the Cleveland RBI softball team finds themselves back in Minnesota for their fourth consecutive RBI World Series. The program has yet to notch a World Series title and the girls hope to change that this year, now that they have figured out how to be successful even without one of their most veteran players in the lineup. Caraballo — and her crutches — did make the trip with the team, her role as captain no doubt crucial to the success of this young team even if her motivation has to come from the sidelines.
“It’s been amazing to watch how they pick each other up,” Coach Kathryn Bzdafka said. “They’ve kept their chins up. They’ve made adjustments. No pouting, no excuses. It’s been really cool to see. They are just a good group of girls.”
Coach Bzdafka has been with the RBI program for two years, while Coach Keri Simon is in her rookie season as one of the head coaches of the Cleveland RBI softball team. Both women are former players who have coached through different programs over the years as well.
“What I love about RBI is that you get the players who really want to be here,” Coach Simon said. “The dedication, you don’t get that a lot now… It’s amazing to see this group come together because they’ve never played together, but you put them on field together and they produce.”
Cleveland lost their first game of the week to Harrisburg and are scheduled to play Hoboken Monday afternoon. The teams will play each team in their division twice before receiving their seeding for Saturday’s playoffs with the championship game being held at the University of Minnesota on Sunday.
But regardless of where Cleveland finds themselves at the end of the week in Minnesota, Coach Bzdafka is confident in the team’s future.
“When I was a player and I would step on the field, I would give 110 percent,” she said. “When these girls step on the field, that’s exactly what they give so I kind of see myself in them but through a different role.”
Tonight Major League Baseball welcomed the eight RBI softball teams to the 20th anniversary RBI World Series. Representing the continental United States, Hawaii & the Dominican Republic, these eight teams will take part in a series of events this week, culminating in the Championship Game held at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium at the University of Minnesota on Sunday.
The teams – Cleveland, Hoboken, Harrisburg, Pattillo, Mathews-Dickey, Hilo Hawaii, Houston & Dominican Republic – enjoyed dinner at Target Field, an event that featured Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson, a friend of Major League Baseball who has spent years advocating for the RBI program. We spent a few minutes talking with Sharon and gave fans an opportunity to submit their own questions. Here is the first portion of her Question & Answer session.
With the growth of popularity of the NBA and NFL among young African-Americans what does MLB need to do to continue to draw younger players into playing baseball?
Major League Baseball takes this very seriously and we have a wonderful program – the RBI Program – that is in cities all over the country and the Caribbean. We try to expand our presence in the urban areas through our RBI program and then we also have started establishing baseball academies, which will take players to that next level and gear them more towards professional sports. We’re looking at it from every angle. We have another program where we work with women in minority-owned business and we try to bring them into baseball, so there are just a lot of things going on and hopefully we’ll be successful in keeping the numbers stable and to start seeing them go upward.
On Sunday, you were able to see the Jackie Robinson RBI program win their first RBI World Series at Target Field. What was that like for you?
It was very cool. I had told them the night before that I live in Sarasota so I’m right next to Bradenton and they were playing the Jackie Robinson league in Jersey City. So we are supposed to be neutral, being from the Commissioner’s Office. I was very calm through most of the game and then we got to that last inning and I saw what was happening… Very, very cool. And when I got on the field, the players said, ‘We told you we were going to do it for you.’ So it was very emotional, very proud of them.
What sets the RBI softball program apart and how has it impacted the softball community?
The softball program instills several things. One, it does keep girls involved in the game of softball — some of them are freshmen in college when they are still with the RBI program. So we have them for quite a while and we help them develop their skills. We also help them get into college and get scholarships; we give our own scholarships as well. We really encourage the girls to see this as a jumping off point in furthering their career… We want them to all be prepared to have a career and work and be able to support themselves and their families. Many of these young women will go on to play college softball.
What motivated you to start the Breaking Barriers program with Major League Baseball?
I started the Breaking Barriers program in 1997, it was the 50th anniversary and the theme for that year was Breaking Barriers. So I kind of took that theme, came to Major League Baseball and I said, ‘I would like to work with you.’ They said yes. So I took that theme and combined it with character building because I thought that was a part of my father that younger generations could grab onto and make it their own. And that’s exactly what has happened. So over the 16 years, we’ve had incredible response from kids. Thousands and thousands of essays, reached 22 million kids and they’ve all talked about obstacles and barriers they’ve had to overcome.
Sharon Robinson is an educator, author, parent and most importantly a great friend to Major League Baseball through her involvement with the RBI program and Breaking Barriers. The daughter of Jackie Robinson, Sharon has dedicated her life to instilling her father’s message in the lives of young athletes and we are so lucky to have her in Minneapolis for this year’s 20th anniversary RBI World Series.
During tonight’s Opening Banquet for the Softball RBI World Series, Sharon will be answering questions during a special Question & Answer session. If you have something you would like to ask her, please leave a comment below — we’ll select questions to ask Sharon and will post the entire session on the blog following the banquet.