Austin Fit Exclusive
Meet RBI Austin: Playing baseball and softball as a means of mentoring
Editor's note: Each month, Austin Fit Magazine shares with our readers a story from its latest issue. In the June issue, on stands now, Austin Fit Magazine takes a look at a local nonprofit that brings together teamwork, physical activity and a mentor program for at-risk youth.
What’s not to love about a nonprofit that brings together kids, physical activity, teamwork, and outdoor time, and combines them all within a mentoring program for at-risk youth? And this particular nonprofit is as American as apple pie… or baseball. Meet RBI.
Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) is a nonprofit organization that uses mentor relationships through baseball and softball to “engage youth athletically, academically, and spiritually” in order to lead them to “transform” their communities. The national group was started in 1989 by John Young, a Major League Baseball player and scout, and has grown to 300 programs in 200 cities worldwide. Each year, some 200,000 boys and girls (ages 4 - 10 in the Junior RBI and boys, ages 13 - 18, in RBI) come together to grow through baseball and softball; the group has reached one million inner city kids since it began.
Director Matt Price and University of Connecticut alum Andy Harris got the ball rolling to bring RBI to Austin in 2009. The two men had volunteered to help the baseball coaches at AISD’s Reagan High School; they connected with the nonprofit For the City Network in 2010 and, through a team effort and the help of Houston Astros head groundskeeper, Dan Bergstrom, renovated the Reagan High fields and provided a community plan for their continued upkeep.
This gave a much-needed facility for the baseball and softball players in East Austin and provided a home field where RBI Austin could host practices, clinics, and league play. “We’ve been really blessed,” said Price, “to see a simple and fun game like baseball make an impact on Austin’s inner city youth, primarily boys, and we’re very excited to see where softball can go to change lives and the community for Austin’s girls.”
In August of 2012, one of the RBI Austin board members reached out to Cat Osterman, former Longhorn and current USSSA Pride pro fastpitch softball player, to invite her to serve on the board and provide her guidance and support to the group. Osterman agreed and, in the process, decided to become more involved with the nonprofit’s goal of launching the girls’ softball program. According to Price, she “loved connecting girls with mentors and had been looking for a way to have a broader impact on softball and to give back to the Austin community.” Osterman began to participate in ways beyond simply sitting on the board — she took part.
One of the many activities that RBI Austin puts on for its kids is an annual banquet, and one of the 2013 distinguished speakers was Osterman. She lit up when she talked about how fun the banquet was and how much she enjoyed interacting with the kids. “It’s another way to give back to the community who really needs it,” she said, mentioning that summer league fees through RBI Austin were very inexpensive (as low as $10) for families who qualified. Price said that Osterman has helped with the monthly Jr. RBI clinics as much as her pro schedule will allow; she’s also brought some of her St. Ed’s players along to provide inspiration.
Osterman explained that she “really enjoy[s] working with the young ones, the 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds; they’re so fun and so innocent and open regarding everything about the sport and willing to try just about anything.” And although Osterman said RBI is Price’s baby, not hers, she went on to say that the program felt like her “adopted baby,” since she’s come to feel very connected and excited about the nonprofit. “I want to see softball grow,” she said.
To that end, she recently visited Oak Springs Elementary to talk to the students about the program. At the end, she asked if anyone had questions; one little boy raised his hand but, when called on, “he just sort of melted. Afterwards, I had my medals with me and he came up to hold them and get a picture taken.” Osterman quickly scrolled through the pictures on her phone and then held it out, asking, “Isn’t he adorable?” as she smiled.
Price says that having Osterman on board with RBI is “an incredible blessing.” He talked about the impact made on children (and their parents) when an Olympic athlete shows up with her medals and in the USA uniform and the inspiration provided by Osterman’s enthusiasm and passion. Price is excited to see what Osterman’s free time will be like (on April 16 — her 30th birthday — she announced her retirement from pro play at the end of this 2013 season) and how extensively she’ll be able to participate in RBI Austin as the program expands over the next five years to include girls from ages 4 through high school. “Cat has definitely been a voice for softball in Austin, Texas, the nation, and the world,” he said. “What better face for the sport and for RBI Austin than Cat Osterman?”
Read more in the June issue of Austin Fit Magazine, available now.