On a national level, youth baseball participation is down, but the Ruth’s Baseball Ideals (RBI) Baseball Club’s area Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) baseball program has experienced nothing but unsurpassed growth in longstanding collaboration with Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks.
The RBI club and Maryland AAU Baseball have earned prestigious recognition nationwide. Player registrations have jumped 6 percent – driven by the area’s need for high-quality, accessible youth baseball. RBI ranks among the fastest growing affiliate clubs in AAU Baseball.
What’s up with that?
With recent initiatives put in place over the last couple years, AAU Baseball has expanded significantly. In fact, it’s drawing more participants to its opportunities than ever before, with teams vying for spots in AAU’s array of district, state, national, and international tournaments.
“We are delighted to be among the largest and fastest growing districts in the U.S. for AAU Baseball,” said John Pineau, Director of the Maryland and Potomac Valley Districts for AAU Baseball, the AAU Mid-Atlantic Wood Bat League based in Maryland, Washington DC and Northern Virginia, and founder and president of RBI. “Our success is the result of the dedication of our volunteers and players.”
RBI has pioneered high school eligible baseball for ages 13-19 intensively in Anne Arundel, Kent, Prince George’s, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Baltimore Counties. The Pasadena Baseball Club Eagles captured the 2016 Maryland AAU 19U State Championship, while the South River Seahawks won the Maryland AAU District Championship.
The PG Select Blue Sox won the 2016 AAU 10U Grand National Championship in Florida. The Kent Island Buccaneers youth club won the AAU 12U World Championship in Florida in 2015, and RBI reached the AAU 17U National Championships in 2013 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex home of MLB’s Atlanta Braves Spring Training.
In other advancements, RBI is sending a team to the AAU Nationals at Florida’s historic Dodgertown USA this summer. The past two Maryland AAU Athlete of the Year Award recipients in all sports, as well as a nominee for the AAU Sullivan award recognizing the nation’s AAU athlete of the year, represented RBI.
RBI coaches also form a team of college baseball players to compete internationally in the high-level summer Collegiate Baseball League Europe (CBLE) in Great Britain, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Austria, and Czech Republic.
Pineau is enthusiastic about the new initiatives implemented to the AAU Baseball program. One of the those changes locally was adding a second set of tournament play apart from the popular Maryland AAU States, which is held in the autumn at the Riva Area Park complex (Annapolis, Md.). According to Pineau, introducing a second tournament just made sense. The Maryland AAU District Championships take place in June also at Riva Park.
Another alteration made was to the league age groups. “Only 30 percent of kids playing baseball at 12 were still playing at the high school level,” said Pineau.
RBI created new groups: the Freshman division, which includes ages 13-15; the 16U/17U division, all high school grade levels except seniors; the 18U/19U, which includes all high school eligible ages; and 18+ division for ages 18-23.
The innovations are having the desired effect, especially when it comes to the number of teams, according to Pineau. RBI saw an immediate increase in players, with a significant jump in the 16U/17U age group.
AAU baseball is a successful and competitive program that rivals many of the other youth organizations in the country. At the National Youth Baseball Championships, which crowns the national champions of the 10 and under and 12 and under leagues from the eight major youth sports organizations, AAU has won at least one of those age groups every year since the tournament began back in 2008.
With this kind of drive, determination, skill and passion, the AAU is a non-profit, volunteer led sports organization that has been around for over 100 years. It has become one of the most established youth sports foundations in the United States and continually strives to build its programs and remain one of the fiercest competitors in youth sports.
AAU has over 500,000 participants and more than 50,000 volunteers in all sports—over 22,000 athletes, coaches and helpers in Maryland alone—but it is still determined to increase that number through its many leagues, including its baseball program.
RBI’s AAU baseball program continues to expand and grow, forming more teams and recruiting more facilities to host district events, state qualifiers, league championships, regional qualifiers and, of course, national championships.