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Phillies Jr RBI program holds first whiffle ball tournament

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Saturday’s weather was perfect for a ballgame. But it wasn’t the home team who took the Phan Field in The Yard at Citizens Bank Park — these young players were from the Phillies Junior RBI program, taking part in its first ever whiffle ball tournament.

Phillies director of youth baseball development Jon Joaquin says RBI stands for reviving baseball in inner cities, a program that’s grown since its launch in 1994 with 500 kids.

“We have over 5,000 kids that play in the city, but these are the lucky 100 kids that come down to the ballpark to enjoy the day here on behalf of Citizens Bank,” he explained.

Zakee Smith, playing on the combined Gambrel Hawks and Warriors team, says he and his friends play several sports.

“Basketball, football. We mostly like baseball, though. Well, I mostly like baseball,” he said.

Zakee’s coach, Artiss Harrison, says the RBI program offers valuable lessons beyond how to play the game.

“It teaches the kids that it really is possible to actually come here, and be here and play here,” he said.

Best of all, he says, “the most important part about it is coming out here and meeting other children, I get to meet other coaches and other parents, and we all have fun, and we all feel like one, instead of being separated.”

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