Venice High School baseball player Daniel Hordo wasn’t about to sit around the house all day and let his baseball skills become cold during the summer.
When Venice High coach Tim Alcanter suggested that 15-year-old Hordo try out for the World Series team of a youth baseball outreach program sponsored by Major League Baseball (MLB), Hordo knew he had to jump on the opportunity.
The MLB Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) outreach program, which is in its 19th season this year, aims to provide 13-to-16-year-old youths with an opportunity to play baseball, while keeping them off the streets and challenging them both physically and mentally.
The program, developed by former scout and Major League player John Young, is designed to increase participation in the sport, encourage academic achievement, develop self-esteem and teach the value of teamwork, according to MLB.
“It seemed like a really good program,” said Hordo, who will enter his sophomore year at Venice High this fall.
The youth participants play against teams from throughout their respective cities in a summer league schedule from May to August. The program is divided into five divisions for local league play — freshman boys (ages 13 to 14), junior boys (15 to 16), senior boys (17 to 18) and girls softball (14 and under, and 18 and under).
RBI programs are now offered in more than 200 cities, with about 120,000 participants nationwide each year.
After Hordo played with other Venice High teammates in the RBI summer league this season, Alcanter recommended that the junior varsity catcher go out for the World Series squad, allowing him to play against athletes from around the country.
Having to compete amongst 70 local athletes for only 15 spots on the RBI World Series team, Hordo was selected for the junior division of the Los Angeles area team.
“I was very surprised,” recalled Hordo, who has lived in Venice for six years. “I felt really honored to make the team.”
Alcanter, who has been involved with the RBI program for five years, said he encouraged Hordo to try out because the teams are particularly in need of catchers.
“He’s dedicated to improving himself,” Alcanter said of the Venice High player.
“He’s a good representative for the school and the community.”
Hordo got his first exposure to high school baseball as a catcher for the Venice High Gondoliers junior varsity team, which finished with a record of 9-5 this past season.
While Alcanter did not coach Hordo for junior varsity, he likes what he has seen of the catcher at work during practices.
Hordo has “really quick feet” and receives the ball well behind the plate, the Venice High coach said.
In preparing for the RBI World Series, which began this week, Hordo and his Los Angeles teammates have practiced three times a week for four hours.
The RBI World Series is hosted by the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton and the championship game is scheduled at Dodger Stadium Sunday, August 12th.
The Los Angeles RBI team is coached by Shannon Williams, head baseball coach at Compton College.
The team has two games scheduled at Cal State-Dominguez Hills Friday, August 10th, one against Houston at 10:45 a.m. and the other against Indianapolis at 1:30 p.m.
Hordo welcomes the challenge of playing in the RBI World Series and said he is looking forward to competing against athletes from across the country.
Alcanter, whose two sons have also participated in the RBI program, said the experience helps the youths improve their baseball skills and gain recognition but it also helps with their academics through the education component.
With three high school seasons remaining, Hordo is hopeful that his RBI team participation will help get him ready for varsity competition at Venice High and pave the way for a college scholarship.
Hordo is excited about other parts of the RBI experience, including attending a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game, but when it comes time to play, his mind will be “100 percent baseball.”
“I’m just looking to have fun and have a good experience,” he said.