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Matt Price Building confidence and character in youth through baseball with RBI Austin

RBI Austin exists to engage and develop inner-city Austin youth athletically, academically, and spiritually, empowering them to lead the transformation of their communities. Founder and Executive Director Matt Price explains how a run down field and a few kids evolved into an MLB backed org impacting thousands of youth.

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[00:00:00] The first time I show up to the school for the first practice I was going to help out with, I get there and I walk up and coach goes... Hey guys, this is Matt Price. He played some college baseball. He'll be helping us out some this season... Introduced me to the guys and there are probably nine or 10 players there. And and he goes, all right, guys...ya'll have fun. I'm gonna go finish basketball practice. Just leaves me with the team! And this is the high school varsity team! You know, their official team!

[00:00:24] Hey, you're listening to the Friends in Austin podcast. I'm your host, Justin Talent. And every week I bring you the stories of the people of Austin. Thank you for listening. Hey, welcome back to friends in Austin today, I have Matt Price on the podcast. He's the founder and executive director of a nonprofit called RBI Austin. Thanks for coming in Matt.

[00:00:52] Hey, thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

[00:00:54] So can you tell me what is RBI Austin and I mean, what's the whole goal of the organization?

[00:00:59] Yeah, RBI Austin, we are a nonprofit organization here in Austin, Texas. We are the simplest way I could tell you is intersection of kids, sports and faith. So if you combine those three things and for us, we primarily do it through baseball and softball, but we're reaching a little bit over twelve hundred kids, mostly in the eastern crescent of Austin and wanting to give them opportunities in life. We use baseball and softball as our engagement tool, but also mentoring them off the field, academic support, et cetera.

[00:01:33] So can you tell me kind of how the whole thing got started? And I know that is it's national, but there's an Austin RBI. Austin is one of many.

[00:01:42] That's right. Yeah. So back in nineteen eighty nine, there's a former Major League Baseball player named John Young, who was in the Los Angeles area, and he started a program in Compton. And he basically looked around and seen that the sport of baseball was kind of dying off in the inner city community there. And as a former ballplayer, he wanted to give kids that opportunity. So he started program there. Major League Baseball latched on to it shortly after and said, hey, this is a great concept. We want kids all over the country to have this opportunity who otherwise maybe wouldn't want to play the sport and to be developed, lifelong, even outside of the sport. So MLB branded it as RBI reviving baseball in inner cities and

[00:02:25] the baseball theme. Right. And then, you know,

[00:02:29] in thousand eleven when we launched here, Austin at that time was the largest city in America that didn't have an RBI chapter. And so we got to start it here in Austin. And it wasn't a preordain plan. It was there's kind of a series of events that led to that

[00:02:47] or was a series of events that led to that.

[00:02:49] Yeah, great question. Yeah.

[00:02:52] So I got to Austin in 2007 and in all frankness, man, I'd played baseball growing up, played in college. But where are you from? I'm from Corpus Christi, so I'm born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. Grew up on the coast about 20 minutes from the beach. I went to school up in the Chicago area. They say that bad baseball talent travels north.

[00:03:11] So I. I went far enough north and found a college team that would take

[00:03:15] me now that played for years up in Chicago at Wheaton College. And just as you play it, I was a pitcher in first base. I'm a lefty. So they only let lefties play so many positions and those are two of them.

[00:03:27] I only played baseball up until high school, not in high school, though, and I played a youth baseball. Baseball, I played pitcher in first base was my favorite. There you go.

[00:03:35] You get all the action, you get into everything. You don't get bored there in right

[00:03:39] field waiting for a ball to be hit play. But yeah. So Corpus to Chicago survived four winters up there in Chicago land and said I got to get back to the promised land. So I came to Austin. I got a job here with Frost Bank, was doing commercial lending with Frost for a few years. At that point

[00:04:02] I did you work in that huge tower downtown? I did.

[00:04:04] And so this is this this here's

[00:04:06] your time stamp. So I get to Austin twenty seven. And at that time the Frost Tower was the tallest building in Austin. Well, that's where we now fourteen years later

[00:04:16] the Jenga building might be now.

[00:04:18] Yeah well there's at least probably 10 or 12 or know, you know, the Bostonian was the first that really surpassed that.

[00:04:25] And there's all these going up. So now, now the Frost Towers dwarfed by the rest of the skyline. But back then it was the thing as a twenty two year old, that's pretty cool. I mean, downtown Austin and the Frost Tower

[00:04:35] and Austin, I still think it feels really small, which is what I like about it. I used to live in Chicago myself, OK, from Indiana. But man, just the scale of Chicago and then yeah, coming to Austin, I was like, OK, like I'm from a small town. This makes me feel a little more comfortable. That's right. You just look at the city. Dirt is like, that's right. And even with these new skyscrapers you still look at downtown, it's like, that's it.

[00:04:54] That's it. And geographically,

[00:04:56] Austin is not a very large the population is booming. But you're like to drive through Austin. You get through it pretty quick. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:05:04] I just drove from the west side to the East Side the other day and my friend Jack was saying that he's like there was we just drove through the whole thing. We just made

[00:05:11] it. Yeah, it's Chicago. It's like you could drive for it seems like hours. And you're like, man, I'm still in Chicago, land all these towns that are connected to it. Yeah, for sure.

[00:05:20] But yeah. So I got to Austin and I was done with baseball, so I'd finished playing in college, played for years up there wheadon and four losing seasons up there. So kind of left this taste in my mouth of

[00:05:34] OK, time to turn the page, ready to focus on a career,

[00:05:38] do other things. Wasn't really looking to stay involved with baseball at all, but I had a friend from church who was a teacher at Reagan High School now called Northeast High School, and she she knew I played baseball growing up. And she's like, hey, man, you should come help out with our baseball team at Reagan. And I said, I can't I'm a I'm a banker. I'm not

[00:05:57] a coach. I know it's not much of a coach of the school. And she said, well, you know, we

[00:06:01] you know, we we could use some extra help. And, you know, I'm sure the boys would love, you know, having a former college player out here to teach them some things. And so I somewhat reluctantly agreed to meet with the baseball coach, their team coach Lewis, at the time, and. He said, hey, we'd love your help, he said, we're short staffed. He said, my one assistant coach is the head basketball coach, so I don't really see him until halfway through baseball season. And so, man, couple days a week would take off. As soon as I help out with the with the baseball team there. And the first time I show up to the school for for the first practice and help out with, I get there and I walk up and Coach Lewis goes, Hey guys, this is Matt Price. He played some college baseball. He'll he'll be helping us out on the season. Introduce me to the guys. There's probably, you know, nine or ten players there.

[00:06:49] And and he goes, all right, guys. Well, you'll have fun. I'm gonna go finish baseball practice. Just leave you your high school varsity team, you know, their school like their official team. And it easy with the players and

[00:07:00] some kind of sitting there and

[00:07:02] like, all right, guys. Well, just kind of made it up as I went. Right. Let's do some ground balls, you know? But that was my

[00:07:07] introduction to Reagan High School. And it was at the time it was the schools in a really tough spot. It was on the verge of being shut down by the state of Texas.

[00:07:18] I still think it's funny that he can't even do the coaching the baseball team.

[00:07:21] He was the first person. It was my my

[00:07:25] my teacher friend Candice, who she knew what she was doing. She's like, hey, man, if I can just get him to show up these, he's going to get suckered into it. And sure enough,

[00:07:33] here we are. So then you're about to finish saying something else, though, after that, before I interrupted you.

[00:07:38] Yeah, well, so what kind of

[00:07:42] happened from there was. God involved the schools in a tough spot. I started learning about the school, that's where I started learning about the school. Had really been struggling the last few years, the state was considering shutting it down because it failed the state testing for years in a row and in the baseball team is kind of a reflection of the school. So, you know, the school is in a tough spot. The baseball team at the time had not won a single game in eight years, which is, you know, we're talking about a five a public school in Austin, Texas. You figure surely, you know. Every year you might get lucky and win a game here or there, but man, they went eight years without a win. That's incredible. But it really reflected some of the needs and the challenges that school is facing and the fact that a lot of the kids growing up in that community either didn't play baseball or if they did, they're like, I'm going to pick another school to go to. Right. And you kind of saw that in the state of the school.

[00:08:36] How big is baseball in Texas? I mean, I'm from the Midwest and I mean, it doesn't I see there's a ton of baseball diamonds up there. I see them here, though. I do see some here is is it

[00:08:47] not very popular? Popular. You know, it's Texas.

[00:08:50] Texas is known for baseball. I mean, you've got, you know, Texas, Florida and California that are probably your three biggest states for baseball. And and just for you know, when you talk about, like, athletes going on and playing cards and that sort of thing, Texas is a pretty big hotbed. You know, the the thing that has happened in baseball that has really. Created some, you know, just some challenges for certain kids to play as it's become, and it's not just baseball. There's most of the sports world is kind of gone this direction where it's gone to this travel ball structure. Right, where instead of playing in your local community leagues where it's like a you grew up in this neighborhood, you find the closest little league you'll play there. You get in a plane for your high school instead of that, which was when I was growing up in the 90s, I was more what it was.

[00:09:41] That's what it was for me to the only people playing travel ball were people that wanted to be really good or on an all star team or something. Yeah, yeah. And everyone else just plays. You play. Exactly.

[00:09:49] So your majority were playing in your local league and then you had maybe a small percentage that were going and doing all stars or the travel ball thing. Well, it's kind of flipped now where, you know, there's kind of this message that started happening about 20 years ago. And actually Austin was one of the places where select baseball really took off. It was one of the first places where you started to see more of these, what they call select teams that would go out and play tournaments. And what's happened now is for parents, you know, and let me say this first, that there there are pros and cons to travel ball. There are pros and cons to playing in your local league. And each of them, neither one is necessarily right or wrong. But I'm going to point out some of the things that have made baseball less accessible overall, the general population and so and travel. All what happened is, you know, they only started believing that, hey, the only way my kid can really get that experience they need to excel and to go to the next level is to go play travel ball well. Early on, that was more the case, right, because it was truly, you know, some of your all stars, right. Your some of your top players that were playing this. And usually it wasn't like that's all they did. They still play in their local league. But it's like on top of that, they're going to go play on a on a select team, play in some tournaments. Well, now what's happened is people, you know, start thinking that, hey, hold on. Where you get to next level is to go play volleyball. Well, now what's happened is that 90 percent of youth sports is travel ball. So what used to be. The 90 percent in your local league. Is now the travel ball circuit and and what's happened is basically diluted travel ball where? The competition level and travel today is no better than the local league I grew up playing in. I played against future college players, played against a future major leaguer in my local neighborhood league. Right. So it's and the challenge for a lot of kids from from low to middle income homes is, man, you have to get to have a certain family structure to travel. You've got to have parents who can take off work on Thursday and Friday or work remotely and go with you, you know, playing these tournaments. You got to have the money. You got to have the ability to travel. I mean, it's just

[00:11:56] it's it's very enjoyable just to be able to drive to the baseball field and just play baseball games. And the people in the stands are the parents. And you meet a lot of people. It's very community oriented. But yeah, when I don't know, I thought the travel thing was cool as a special it's a special thing. You do that, right? That is a small sliver, but.

[00:12:11] Yeah, and it is, it can be a really good thing. It gives kids exposure and opportunities they may not otherwise have, but it's kind of gone from being the kind of the special add on to help you get to that next level to. One of the only options.

[00:12:25] How did that happen?

[00:12:27] Well, you know, I think more and more families just started kind of saying, hey, we we're going to go play travel ball. And then is that picked up? And it became an industry. It became a thing where there was money to be made. And rather than being select from the standpoint of, hey, only the maybe the most talented or most experienced players will be chosen for these teams to go represent, you know, your community like in an all star tournament. Instead of that, it became the selection wasn't based on talent, it was based on money. So it's like, hey, if you'll write a check to our organization, then we will have a spot for your kid on our team.

[00:13:02] And so now you just have all these different layers

[00:13:04] of teams that may or may not actually be, you know, more talented than your local league team. So that that's I'm kind of describing some of the need in new sports, which is in this here's a stat. There's a group called the Aspen Institute who has done a lot of study there, a think tank. One of the things that they study is sports. And a kid from a low income home is half as likely to play team sport as a kid from a higher income home in America today. Not and that stat has been widening over time. So the you know, the fewer and fewer kids from those lower income homes.

[00:13:42] And that's partly due to the at least in baseball due to the new focus on traveling.

[00:13:46] Yeah, it is.

[00:13:47] And I think travel and for all of you, sports travel is like an 18 billion dollar industry now. So it's become just really holy crap. You see these big tournament complexes being built and they're going to be so much good. Do it by itself. There's a lot of good to it. But the the side effect that I don't think was intended is that now your local league, many of them have died off. Right. And you talk about East Austin, there's a number of leagues where you go back to the 80s and 90s. And were these booming, thriving leagues where you just had BRAIT is a great community gathering spot. You had your most you know, all the kids in the community played there. So you had kids the first time, players all the way to kids that were going to become future major leaguers, all playing together. And that's that's the part that's kind of died off now. Or you just you go to these local leagues and you don't see nearly as much of that.

[00:14:37] OK, question on that, because, you know, as a kid, I never of course, these aren't things to think about. I just knew that there was a league. But but I never thought about who funds them because, I mean, obviously you're saying they died off. Who starts and funds these leagues?

[00:14:50] Yeah, most of them are nonprofit organizations. You have many that are chartered by Little League. You have some that are chartered by Poni, where they're, you know, part of this large organization, and they pay an annual membership fee type of deal and they give them a structure and they, you know, have an all star tournament for their top players to go play in. But it's most of them are you know, they're self-funded, meaning it's the participants that are part of the league that are you know, they're paying a registration fee. And then even within that, you get, you know, within that community, the local businesses who say, hey, we're going to sponsor this little league and you see the signs out there on the fence. Right. But it's it's it's really funded from within. Right. It's these communities that between the families and the businesses and the churches and all the different institutions rally behind the kids and say, hey, we're going to give them this opportunity together. And that's to me, that's one of the sadder parts about. And of this unintended consequence of travel ball is you really lost a lot of that local community buy in to the kids where you're all getting behind these kids in your community. Now, it's a lot of the travel teams. I mean, it's it's kids from all over. There's kids who live in Austin and their travel team is based out of Houston and vice versa. I mean, it's and so it's not about your community more it's more about the individual kid as compared to the community.

[00:16:14] So we started on that when we were talking about you started coaching. And then, I mean, you're trying to solve this problem of recruiting these local leagues, right?

[00:16:23] Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, for us, when we started, we had a group of high schoolers. It was is the Reagan High School guys where we started. And then also East Side Memorial High School, which is also in East Austin, was a similar spot as Reagan back in 2009, 2010, when we began going. And what we realized with these kids and what you know, the first summer we had a team, what happened was Reagan 2009 hadn't won a game in eight years out there helping out a little bit start ask the guys, hey, where do y'all play summer ball? And everyone said, oh, coach, you know, I don't play soccer ball. I said, Guys, you're. You're never gonna win a game if you're not working at it and playing outside of your school team, they said, well, coach, we love to play. We just don't have a team to play on. And it's kind of one of those light bulb moments for me, because I grew up in Corpus Christi and down in Corpus. And it's a it's a obviously a lot different town than Austin. And part of that difference is, you know. Everybody plays baseball down there, and it's just part of the culture and it's not about you come from a better off home or lower income home or it's not about like every kid had an opportunity, wasn't based on class or income. And so I was I was just shocked to kind of see when I got to Reagan realize that, wow, there's a whole pocket of the city where kids who want to play baseball and they don't have that opportunity, so. The what kind of happened from there is that another buddy named Andy Harris, he played college ball and also knew him from church. And I said, hey, man, you know. What do you think about, you know, maybe starting a summer ball team, you guys actually have a place to play and get better and I didn't really take any action on it, kind of, you know, what, my own way. And then he comes back to me a month later and he goes mad. I've been praying about this for the last month and God wants us to start this summer team. I go,

[00:18:10] Oh, right, man. Yeah, yeah. Let's get on that, you know? And so, you know, Andy, the faith, the faithful prayer warrior.

[00:18:16] So we we call a team meeting with the Reagan guys. And, you know, I think most people know this, but you got to have you got nine players on the field for baseball. You really need at least 12 to 15 players to really have a team, have some guys on the bench that can come in. So we call our first team meeting right towards the end of the spring and say, hey, guys, we're going to have some more team come out if you want to play to players showed up. And so we got this.

[00:18:42] I don't know if this is going to work out. You know, two players. That's a long way to get from there to

[00:18:46] full roster is a long way. But there was a there's a mother there, one of the moms of the players who did show up. And she long time community member had been in that Reagan Northeast Austin community for decades. And she said, hey, guys, now like this team is going to happen. These boys need a place to play, need this opportunity. And she said, I'll make sure we get enough boys out here. So between her and get more rain guys. And then the East Side Memorial High School players coming into we had enough and that team went two and 15 that first summer, which was a raging success

[00:19:15] because at two wins, right? Yeah. Well, you haven't won a game in your high school career and you

[00:19:19] get a win. It's like you won the World Series, which is pretty, pretty special for those guys. You know, the bigger thing that happened was as we're coaching these guys and giving them rides to games and practices, we started hearing their stories and hearing more about their lives. And, you know, when you're driving through traffic in Austin on the way somewhere with some, you start, you know, hey, so you got you have any siblings? Tell me about, you know, what are your interests and learned. Most of the guys on that team were fatherless. Most most of them had no just consistent mentorship guidance in their lives. But guys who really had had some great upsides. Right. As each one of them, you just saw the gifts and abilities and talents that they had, not just in sports, but as people. And so we started going to that summer and. We saw you guys really start to grow and, you know, some of the soft skills like. You know, showing up on time, which, by the way, I showed up at your house seven minutes late today, so I haven't learned that one very well myself, but these guys figured it out and just persevering through adversity and some of the soft skills I think I took for granted these guys really, as we kind of started pressing into them and saying, hey, guys, you know, you can do better. You know, if they're, you know, doing a tantrum after making an error or something, just talking through what does it look like to persevere through that, to stay composed and things that obviously help you in sports, but translate off the field in really important ways to. Right. And when you have those kinds of soft skills and and then from if they start, you know, for Andy and I, when we jump into it, it's like, why would we, you know, give up our summer and put this time into this and and make this effort? And a lot of it was driven by our faith. And so getting to really show our faith with these guys to and help them see their their God given purpose in life and see, man, they had gifts and abilities that they could use to really have meaningful lives and live a life of purpose. That's great.

[00:21:15] Yeah. So I want to ask this is going back quite a bit in the conversation, but when you got left in the field and you started teaching them to coach and stuff like that, I mean, obviously, you know baseball well because you played a lot. But so would you do to just like. Well, you know, what would what would I have done had to do in practice and started just learning how to structure everything.

[00:21:34] Yeah. And I you know, at that time I was about a year or so out of college, you know, I played a ton my a life that I never coached a team. And so I just kind of. Harkened back to my playing days.

[00:21:47] All right, what does a practice look

[00:21:49] like, you know, and started organizing the practice around that and how to figure out, OK, what positions you guys play? You know, that was like

[00:21:57] I just met the team, right? Like where it was infielder

[00:21:59] and outfielder who pitches and, you know, you start kind of figuring that out and get to know the guys. And, you know, baseball is a repetition sport. So when when you. I have a certain part of the game that you're working on, a lot of it is rinse and repeat. You know, you got to be too creative. It's, you know, whether it's batting practice or taking ground balls or other facets of the game. A lot of it is repetition, repetition, repetition until you get better.

[00:22:26] So you've got this team developed, don't you? I mean, don't we need a lot more teams? I mean, who are they playing against? Yeah, right.

[00:22:35] So yeah. Yeah. So we you know, we had that team that first summer and we realized we got into that summer and we realized, hey, this was like that was more than we had bargained for. Right. We thought we thought we were going to go to our team. What happened was we saw these guys really gross ballplayers, but more so grow as young men. And we said, hey, we can't just kind of go on with our life as if that didn't happen. We got to find a way to continue with these guys. And then also to your point, knowing, hey, there's a lot more kids out here in this community who need the same kind of opportunity and would take advantage of it if they had just like our guys took advantage of the opportunity. And so we man, we kept in touch with the guys. We did. We had a buddy who's a professional outdoorsman who led a camping trip for our old team that fall. And man, we do we do some baseball throughout that, you know, the off season. But we just stayed in touch with the guys. And and then fast forward. So that was 2009 when we had that first group, first team called the East Austin Blazers. That was one of the players that came up with the name.

[00:23:36] What field do you play or do they play?

[00:23:39] Yesterday, that first year we played at the Reagan High School field. Where is that? So if you go if you're in Austin and you're going to say you're downtown, go north and thirty five you hit to ninety, go go east. Twenty nine years if you're going towards Houston or Maner and it is, it's, it's literally on two ninety seconds, you know, probably a mile or two east of thirty five.

[00:24:03] There's another field and I'm trying to remember what it was called. If you're going, if you're crossing town like to get into Austin from South Austin and you turn right on Lenneberg trail, you're on the trail and you keep running that way. Yeah. You go over a bridge and there's a baseball field right there. It's awesome to know that's called.

[00:24:19] Yeah. So there's a couple over there. There's the Fiesta Gardens is one of the the the complexes there where there's a few fields. There's also crack fields, which is a bunch of softball fields. Right by Longhorn Dam. If you've if you've run that part of the trail. Yeah. Right up there. Craig Fields. And those are actually both those sorts of fields that's mentioned are fields that we now use in our program. There's a lot of good news, bad news. There's a lot of a lot of available fields in Austin. When we were getting going, there weren't necessarily always kids out there using them. But there are a lot of fields in East Austin that thankfully had a great partnership with the city of Austin and be able to get kids out there and and make use of those fields and in some cases do renovations to make the fields better.

[00:25:06] OK, you were saying how, you know, you got involved with the kids lives and everything else and how. Yeah, baseball is great for that man. Baseball is the most. I played several sports when I was a kid, but I got to say baseball was the most fun as a player in a community because the team is large. Yeah. You get to play outside, you know, outdoors out on the field and, you know, people come and watch. I mean, people come watch all games. So I don't know, for whatever reason, baseball is the funnest sport ever played. Yeah.

[00:25:34] Yeah, it's managed. It's great because a kid who's never played the game before can jump in and learn it. And I mean, for example, we're doing a clinic this coming weekend and and it's for any kid, you know, it's any kid can come and just try the game out, you know, learn like we'll have different stations where they learn how to hit, learn how to feel, learn how to throw stuff. And then also for the kids who've been playing for a while, it's it's a great way for them to tune up and get out there and see some of their friends again. But you're right, as opposed to other sports where there's I think maybe the injury the a little bit higher barrier. It's like football where it's like, hey, man, he like, you better be ready out there and like, get physical pretty fast.

[00:26:15] Yeah. There's not there's not really to easing into football, you know, it's like, hey man, you better be ready.

[00:26:21] Yeah. It's a little bit different of a mentality. And then and then if like I don't know how high school baseball is, but I remember my high school football, which I didn't play, and this is why I didn't it's just because, you know, they wanted you to do the three days in the summer. They're just kind of like, all right, football is your life now. It is,

[00:26:35] yeah.

[00:26:35] Yeah. So I don't mind hard practices and hard sports, but I mean, I did wrestling and it's like, you know, practice is long, but there's one practice, right? Yeah. Yeah. And then you leave.

[00:26:43] That's right. Yeah. No life outside of this. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And baseball's great the youth level.

[00:26:48] It means you get older, you get into high school, varsity and college. Obviously you're putting more and more time into it. But yeah, at the youth level for young kids man, it's a great sport to try out. And it's something for us that, you know, we, we want to engage kids in baseball and softball and but ultimately, we know that they will retire from the game at some point. And it might be when they're twelve and might be when they're. In high school might be after college, but that's why a lot of our mission and focus as over the years grown more and more on OK, beyond the engagement in baseball and softball, how do we how do we give kids opportunities to really

[00:27:25] excel in life? Well, I mean, in any sport, especially at the youth level, just teaches life skills. You know, like you said, showing up on time, communicating with people, getting along with people, taking instruction, you know, noticing that you're not good at something and learning how to repetitively build a skill. All things that basically translate over into any part of your life, so even if you decide to get to the high school college level and you decide the time commitment isn't what you want it to be, you're still going to take away a lot of skills from that. That's right.

[00:27:55] Was that one part of our journey? Because you mentioned Fields and, you know, when we were we had this kind of ragtag grassroots team called these Awesome Blazers in 2009, 2010. And then we thought about we had a friend who's that who had worked for Major League Baseball previously. And she said, hey, you know, this RBI program, Major League Baseball, that could be a good fit for you guys to kind of expand what you're doing, reach more kids, get a little bit more of a presence in Austin and.

[00:28:21] OK, hold on. So, yeah, the whole RBI thing hadn't even started like that. Had been started by Major League Baseball, right?

[00:28:27] Yeah. So everything with with

[00:28:29] Reagan and these initial early years, this was pre RBI, Austin, this was this was the East Austin Blazers. And it wasn't until 2011 when we actually affiliated with Major League Baseball and became RBI Austin.

[00:28:43] But damn, that's 10 years you've been doing that for now. We knew that for 10 years.

[00:28:46] That's right. So we just did our 10 year mark. And Major League Baseball has been a great partner for us. They got a great a great team.

[00:28:53] So how did that she she told you, hey, maybe you should check this out. Yeah. And then you looked into it.

[00:28:59] She we met for lunch one day and she she learned what we were doing and she said her actually job right immediately before she got into Austin was with the Boston Red Sox. And the Red Sox actually have an RBI program that they run themselves. And and so she was familiar with it and she said, hey, y'all should look into this. So she connected us to the right people at Major League Baseball. And we kind of said, hey, here's what we've been doing. Here's kind of our vision. We know there's more kids who need these opportunities. And Major League Baseball basically said, hey, like what you guys have started is exactly, you know, what the mission of RBI is nationally. And we think I'll be a great fit. And they sent us an application and we're going through it. And our big hole was on the application. You got to say where you would host your RBI program. And I mentioned we had started at the Reagan High School baseball field, but that field was and it was not in good condition. And we just kind of knew, like, hey, Major League Baseball, they're not going to want to put their name on a program where we say we're hosting this program at a field that had Pol's in it, that was pretty run down that. And so we're like I mean, when you go raise a bunch of money and build a new field somewhere, like where are we going to do one day I'm sitting in an email. It's one of those emails have been forwarded three or four times that originated from the Los Angeles Dodgers groundskeeper. And the message said, hey, we have our annual groundskeepers convention coming up in Austin next year. And as part of our convention each year, we'll pick a high school field locally a year out. The renovation project and then unveil it at our convention. Do you know of a high school field and Wozniak use some work and

[00:30:42] does e-mail is forwarded to me. And I said, wow, OK, God, I see. Yeah, I see you working.

[00:30:48] And and so long story short, you know, we nominated the Reagan field and Major League Baseball chose the Astros groundskeeper, ended up being kind of lead on the project to use, you know, the closest major league team to us. And he did, based on a fifty thousand dollar field renovation, made it a brand new, basically rare new plane surface that kids could play on and that Major League Baseball would be proud of. And so that's kind of it kind of worked together. I think getting that renovation was partly enhanced by the fact that we were looking at becoming an Arab satellite and then vice versa. I think Major League Baseball saw that, hey, there's this field being renovated that you are going to host your program out of. It really helped our cause there, too.

[00:31:28] Do that is awesome. Yeah. So, I mean, I wish I could see the before and after pictures of the field, but yeah. Pretty crazy. Yeah it

[00:31:36] was. Yeah. And we have, we have some, some of the foreign actors and you know before is just one of those fields where, you know, there's just weeds and potholes. It just hadn't really been taken care of for a while. And then, you know, when the head groundskeeper for the Astros spends a few months renovating it,

[00:31:54] it's pretty sweet. Yeah. Yeah, I to play on that field, you know, get on that field,

[00:31:59] you know, they sure it was it was a transformation and it it did draw, you know, as soon as that field was rebuilt, all or sudden it's come out of the woodworks

[00:32:08] it looks like. Yeah, yeah. It's like hey, this looks legit and then people want to come watch.

[00:32:14] Yeah, that's right. That's right. So yeah, that that was a big part of our journey was that like that field happened in and 2011 we become RBI and we kept doing high school but we said, hey, we got to reach kids at a younger age or we're kind of missing the boat. We just need a lot of kids. By the time they're in high school, a lot of you know, especially in some of your lower income Atrous communities, you know, for different reasons are doing other things. Sometimes it's dropping out of school. Sometimes they got to go work at a young age. And so we knew, hey, we got to from both a baseball softball standpoint, but also just a mentorship and faith side of things. We said we want to reach kids young and so becoming Argyros and help us with that when we went in, you know, hold on a on a local elementary school to invite them to have their kids, you know, be a part of our program, come in as RBA Austin, part of Major League Baseball, was a lot easier getting the door open.

[00:33:08] The Hey, my name is Matt Price. I'm with the East Austin Blaze. So we definitely use that MLB logo to

[00:33:17] help get us in some doors early on before we probably deserved any credibility. Yeah, but it did help. It helped get kids excited in the schools, excited to meet to partner with us and get their kids involved. And from a volunteer side, same thing. I mean, I mentioned your neighbor, Casey Black, and, you know, we were friends. But for him and many others, I think the fact that we we had a little bit of a foundation under us becoming an RBI affiliate, I think it helped just get people excited to jump in and give their time as coaches or mentors or other cases. Actually speaking in KC, he put a lot of time, field work time. And so he up to these Reagan fields, early years, man, and he just be out there raking them with his low heat mode. And for us, I mean, he

[00:34:03] he really I can see him doing that. Yeah.

[00:34:04] Yeah, he was. Yeah. I think he was our our head groundskeeper for the first couple years purely as a volunteer. We never paid the guy a dime. But he but that's a big part of our story. It's people like Casey who, who have that heart and want to give back.

[00:34:17] He's also the neighborhood snake wrangler.

[00:34:19] Is he really. Yeah. Well, it doesn't surprise me.

[00:34:21] Yeah, well, I don't share this with you. So one of his early teams in Arbi Austin, this was this is a tee ball team was called.

[00:34:28] You're this. No, the Cobras, of course. Right. And so, yeah, that is his his snake affinity,

[00:34:37] I guess lives on here, huh.

[00:34:38] Yeah. Yeah. Anytime someone finds one in the back backyard, they call Casey and he comes over there and he relocates it to a location that is safe.

[00:34:45] Yeah. I think he'd probably

[00:34:47] relocate some of them to his house, but he's married now as opposed to ten years ago. I think. I think Dina has set some boundaries around

[00:34:55] snakes in the house. Yeah. I think that was one of their, like, marital things like. All right, Casey, I love you, dude, but we got to get these snakes out there.

[00:35:02] It's funny, Tony. So how do things continue to progress? Like how many teams you got now? I mean, because you started it? Well, two people showed up at a practice.

[00:35:11] We literally start with two people. Yeah. Yeah. So we.

[00:35:16] It's gradually grown, so, you know, that first years as our guy, Austin, we had a little over 100 kids involved and I was both four to six year olds and a tee ball league that we started. And then it continued with our high school age group today. So fast forward 10 years or now as of the most recent year. Twelve hundred ninety five kids, and that's four to 18 boys and girls, baseball and softball on the field, plus our off the field mentorship programs that we're doing. And it's it wasn't overnight, but it's just been a gradual each year kind of building and building and the community. And we've had such great just support from the community, so many families and parents and schools and community leaders in the season community. That man just love their community, love the kids in this community. And that's I mean, it's really that's with or without the people in the family saying, hey, we want to do this for our kids, we wouldn't be here. I mean, we're we have a budget and we raise money. But, you know, our our volunteer investment from parents, from volunteers, cetera is is incredible. That's what that's how we got to while 33 kids was people giving their time.

[00:36:29] That's crazy. I mean, that's that's a significant impact. I mean, you're definitely affecting a lot of people's lives, kids, parents, everything. Community has been able to come together because, again, I mean, baseball is a great fun. It's an amazing youth sport. And so just for the fact that so many of these kids didn't even have a chance to play it or at least not play it out of the way, that it's really kind of meant to be played at a local level. Yeah, yeah. That's crazy. Yeah, that's really difficult.

[00:36:54] To the last few years now, we've had more and more kids that are graduating high school and and many of them going on to college. Many of them won't actually play baseball or softball in college on scholarship, which is pretty cool. Last couple of years with our first couple players who that Division one baseball scholarship offers and our girls aren't far behind. We started softball three or four years into it. And so our softball is still growing and kind of catching up to the boys. But we're going to have our first actually, we had just our had our first softball player who signed with a college just a couple of weeks ago. So we're excited for the girls. And, you know, there's talk about the disparity between kind of low income, high income and new sports. There's also some disparities as far as got to girls and sport involvement. And so we're have really pumped to have softball grown Cat Osterman. She's a softball legend, Olympian. She played at UT and she's actually on Team USA right now. But she's she's on our board and a big part of what we're doing from a softball. And we got some great on the on the baseball side, some, you know, former U.S. players and MLB players that have really. Gotten behind us and been great champions for us, and and that all makes a difference, you know. Yeah. When you start out that you saw some blazers with two players, man, when you have

[00:38:13] when you have a former big

[00:38:14] league player, Olympian, come out and say, hey, man, we're going to like we're going to give our time and support you guys and support your kids, it really does make an impact.

[00:38:23] Yeah. And it shows that they have an opportunity that they wouldn't have had if there weren't a bigger baseball presence in their community. And now they get to go to college at a discount or for free. That's right.

[00:38:32] That's right.

[00:38:33] Yeah. And for a lot of kids, you know, we always say, hey, man, that like our our end game is not how far is it could go in baseball softball, but it's ultimately, are we saying them up for success in life to live out their God given purpose in life? And and if if one kid who do you're part of a program and he you know, he he went to after high school, he went to school for a week and got a certification and do great now and he's now. And it's great because you start having more and more of our kids who graduate and are entering careers. And now it's like, all right, man, when I need a plumber, I got my guy

[00:39:06] when I need my AC worked out of a guy, you know, I don't have to

[00:39:09] look too far, but we're grateful no matter what kind of career path our kids are taken as a as a get to that age or just mean when they're kind of pursuing their dreams and they're living out their God given purpose. We're pretty excited for him.

[00:39:23] Hey, everyone, this is your host, Justin. I just wanted to thank everyone for listening and give those that are new to the podcasts a reminder to please subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast player. If you're on YouTube, please like the video share with the friend that helps us out. Thank you. So how how do things look for you now? I mean, it's been 10 years. What are the struggles now? What are the things you're focusing on now? And I'm sure trying to get over.

[00:39:49] Yeah, no, it's a great question. And, you know, our first year of existence, we've operated completely out of schools and in inner city ballparks. And that's been great because it puts us in these schools and neighborhoods where it's easy for kids to find us and be a part of RBI. But the downside and really the hurdle that we are currently facing is, you know, we don't have a year round place where kids can be part of RBI on certain days. They know that, hey, we'll be at their school on certain days. We might be at the local neighborhood Parks and Rec field, but none of those spaces are our own that that we can day in, day out, operate out of. And so that's one thing our board has been looking at is actually creating kind of an HQ, a home for RBI, Austin, where kids can come and they can get the sports training, they can get the mentorship, the academic support, the job training. But really just that hub where you no matter what they're coming for, they know that, hey, I can go to this place, find I know there's going to be coaches, mentors, people who care about me. You're going to, you know, want to invest in me, want to, you know, whatever it is that kid is, you know, whatever phase of life they're in, know that they're going to have that community of support there. And so we were really excited, actually. We have a a property that we described a couple of years ago. And it's actually really close to this neighborhood where it's over here on Loyola Lane. And there's an amazing woman named Barbara Scott, who's a community leader. She's been the county park neighborhood president for. I don't want to AJR, but for decades, let's just say that and she had heard about RBI, she got kids from her neighborhood involved a few years ago, and this year we're looking for land. She heard today the same thing I just mentioned to you of, hey, RBI is looking to have a home. And she connected us to a a local church pastor whose church owned 33 acres right in her neighborhood on Little Lane. And the long story short is through Mascotte and through this church's generosity. We acquired this property. They they gave it to us, you know, well below what they could have sold on the market for. They got another property in exchange in

[00:42:10] the city,

[00:42:11] especially in this city, Utah, about thirty three

[00:42:13] acres. And you say, you know, as a nonprofit organization, you know, we have to go out to the country to find 30 acres that we can afford. Right? Yeah. So Miss Scatman, she just incredible, incredible woman. She she she cares deeply for this community. And she was the one who, you know, came to this church and we acquire the property. And so we actually go into the rezoning phase right now. But but the vision for this property is that it would be the headquarters. We have a concept design now that has indoor building where you have the kind of classroom space for the mentor and academic support, job training. It has some athletic training space indoors and also has an outdoor ballfield area.

[00:42:51] That's insane. That's so cool.

[00:42:52] Yeah. And it's I mean, we.

[00:42:55] We were sitting here a few years ago saying, hey, we know we need this, but how in the world? Well, you know, unless we get a ten million dollar gift out of the you know, that we can make this happen, that we've been so, so grateful just for MISCA in the church and we're probably, at this point, two or three years out from actually being able to operate, you know, wow.

[00:43:16] It takes a while to get this stuff together.

[00:43:18] It does. It does. And we're making progress. The covered in the pandemic put a little bit of a slowdown and some of the fundraising and planning side of it. But we're picking up steam again on those things and we're excited for what it's going to it'll allow us to continue to do the baseball and softball side of things, but really give a place for kids to as they get older and want to train in their sport and really go as far as a place to do that. There's there's just you look around the eastern Cresson of Austin and there's not a whole lot of places for young athletes to do that, as opposed to, say, if you go west to thirty five, there's a lot more that I'm so excited for that. But then we're also excited and we just. I mentioned are early man, we just saw the potential saw there, Upside's, and it's like, how can you invest in young and young people in a way that allows them to fulfill their God given purpose? And we just think in giving them access to a network of people, giving them access to academic support, job training, all those things is huge. And so we're that's a big part of the vision for this site is that it's going to be a place that hopefully long after they're done playing baseball or softball where we're kids and families say this is a place that we can not just hang out and have a good time, that we're going to get those resources and opportunities that are going to help us.

[00:44:37] That facility is going to be there for a long time. It's going to affect a lot of people's lives. That's something to be super proud of. Very cool.

[00:44:43] And that's our hope and prayer for sure. Yeah.

[00:44:46] Well, man, I think the I don't know that. I think we covered a lot of it. Is there anything else that we're we're leaving out here, those guys?

[00:44:53] I mean, I think, you know, as far

[00:44:54] as I know, a lot of times people say, well, hey, how can we help? What can we do? Maybe a couple of things. He'll go to our website, arbalest not. Org volunteer opportunities on there, other types of opportunities. But really, the two biggest things we always need is this time and money. Right. And so time we need coaches. When he mentors, we need people who can come and help us scorebook at a

[00:45:15] game, you know, I mean, there's there's a lot of different

[00:45:17] things people can do that may or may not require any kind of sports background, but just a desire to serve kids. And then on the funding side, we know there's a lot of individuals and business people out there looking to to give back and help, especially kids in need in Austin. And so different ways people can do that. You can sponsor one of our teams. You can actually sponsor, you know, a particular player to be a part of our program.

[00:45:38] Oh, that's neat.

[00:45:39] Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of ways for people involved. And so, yeah, we invite you guys coming out of. Take them out. God willing, coming out of this pandemic and praying there won't be another surge in Austin. Things are looking pretty good right now, but I know so many of our kids are just just itching to get back out there. And so this is a great year for people who want to get involved. Twenty twenty one is is the year to do it, man. We're ready for you and our kids are ready and we think it's me. Great.

[00:46:07] You're cool. I'm excited to see the progress in the facility. Do you guys make any updates, like on a blog or anything about. I mean, I know it's pretty far out,

[00:46:15] but yeah, we I can

[00:46:18] I can show a link. We have kept it mostly kind of under wraps as far as any kind of, you know, PR stuff. We'll get there eventually. But yeah, I mean, well, there'll be an announcement probably in the coming year or so just to give kind of the public a little bit more of an insight into what's happening. But right now, it's been more of these kind of conversations and kind of sharing the vision. And as we get closer to making it happen, we'll share more.

[00:46:43] Yeah, and as you mentioned so well, the facility is very diverse and the services that are offered. So it's not totally baseball. So, I mean, kids are going to come in there and and someone can tutor them in their homework and stuff like that. So you're going get so you're going to need volunteers of literally all kinds completely.

[00:46:59] Yeah. Yeah. And there's I mean, in our building there's a there's a steam room that's planned for it. So all the science technology I mean you think about Tesla, I mean not far from here and all the different tech jobs in Austin, we want to give we give young people and even adults I mean, there's a lot of parents who sometimes are in career transitions. And we want to give them a space where men, if they're trying to, you know, get into the tech world and want to kind of build a career doing something new, a space where they could actually have those resources and and just build, you know, for them and their family and their kids. And so, yeah, well, it won't be. The cool thing about the facility is it's not going to be RBI Austin providing all these resources, but it'll be a hub where for the 100 plus kids we serve, for others in the community, where they can come, where we can have partners in the community who do specialize in whether, you know, it's job training or other types of resources like that. It'll be a space that we're going to be inviting them in. And and then it's the connector for those resources to the kids and families that are showing up.

[00:48:05] Supercool man. It was good to meet you, Matt. And yeah, thank you.

[00:48:08] Justin it was great to chat. Appreciate what you're doing.

[00:48:11] Check out RBI Austin! Yes, sir. You got it. Thank you.

[00:48:15] Thank you.