Riverside defeats the Blue Sox in RBI Tournament

Fred Jeter | 7/14/2017, 10:26 a.m.
Some talented, teenage baseball players have completed the Richmond area portion of their season. Now they’re ready to hit the ...
William Gary, right, of the Richmond Blue Sox slides safely into third base despite Duncan McGrath of Riverside covering him during last Sunday’s final in the RBI Tournament in Richmond. Clement Britt

Some talented, teenage baseball players have completed the Richmond area portion of their season.

Now they’re ready to hit the road.

Richmond’s U-18 league for Reviving Baseball in the Inner City finished Sunday, July 9, with Riverside defeating the Blue Sox 18-8 in the RBI Tournament final at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s Parham Road campus.

Sam Kemp swatted a bases-loaded triple and pitchers Guthrie Moore, Matthew Pinson and Henry Haas handled the pitching for victorious Riverside, which is based out of Richmond Little League at Byrd Park.

The tournament marked as much a beginning as and ending for the local sluggers and fielders.

A group of All-Stars representing both RBI and Metropolitan Junior Baseball League will travel to Greensboro, N.C., Friday, July 14, through Tuesday, July 18, for the MJBL Inner City Classic.

After that comes a trip July 20 through 23 to Philadelphia for an RBI World Series qualifier.

If victorious in Philadelphia, the Richmond contingent will travel to Cincinnati for the 25th Annual RBI World Series in August.

Some background is necessary.

The RBI, a national organization founded in 1989, and the MJBL are partners in promoting baseball to mostly minority youths in large cities around the United States. RBI has been sponsored by Major League Baseball since 1991.

The MJBL was founded in Richmond in 1966 by Dr. William Forrester Sr. His son, William “Bill” Forrester Jr., has since been a driving force in the program.

The MJBL squad won the regular season, U-18 RBI title with a 6-3 record. Riverside was second at 5-4.

This spring and summer, the RBI/MJBL fielded U-18 and U-15 leagues, with most games at Horace Edwards Field near Virginia Commonwealth University, and at Reynolds’ Parham Road campus.

While the RBI and the MJBL attract mostly African-American youngsters, this year’s local winner, Riverside, was a team comprised of white players coached by Will Moore.

“We absolutely welcomed them,” said local RBI Director Tracy Causey. “Yes, the intent of RBI was to encourage African-Americans to play. But the reality is that we want to interact with whites and Hispanics, too. It’s a great way for these kids from diverse backgrounds to get together.”

Riverside and the West End Royals, a team also from the Richmond Little League, were both all-white entries this season in the U-18 division.

Guthrie Moore, the coach’s son, pitches for Armstrong High School and encouraged his white Little League friends to enter the RBI league, Coach Moore said.

“Our kids just love baseball. I call them baseball ‘lifers,’ ” said Coach Moore. “Race wasn’t even mentioned during the season. It never came up. And I want to say we really value our opportunity to play with others from different neighborhoods.”

Guthrie Moore is Riverside’s only player from Richmond Public Schools. Others hail from the Maggie Walker Governor’s School, Trinity Episcopal and Collegiate.

Guthrie Moore and Eric Trout will represent Riverside on the All-Star circuit. Others were selected for the team but chose not to play because of possible conflicts with college freshmen preparations.

In reaching the final, Coach Bob Raymond’s Blue Sox defeated the Rocky Mount, N.C., Mud Cats and host team MJBL. Riverside ousted the Royals to qualify for the championship game.

Keon Smith, a recent graduate of Highland Springs High School, swatted two homers in the tournament, including one against Riverside in the final. Smith will continue baseball this coming season at Virginia State University.

The Blue Sox got an outstanding pitching performance from 15-year-old Markell Patillo of Armstrong High School in the win over MJBL.