PAWTUCKET – The groundwork for what co-manager Matt Bergeron dubbed “a once in a lifetime experience” and “something the kids will be telling their grandkids about years from now” was hatched last summer when the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket RBI Junior Division All-Stars participated in the RBI Junior Division World Series in Minneapolis.
“(Tournament officials) commented about how Pawtucket RBI has come such a long way,” Bergeron said.
Such kudos hit home two months ago when Bergeron received an e-mail that contained great news: Pawtucket had been selected to return to the city hosting this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in conjunction with the 2014 All-Star Junior RBI Classic.
The delegation that includes a dozen players ages 11 and 12, a handful of parents along with three coaches – Bergeron, Luke McLaughlin and Lonnie Santiago – is scheduled to fly out to Minnesota Thursday morning. Bergeron said that the team would gather for a light practice at the Boys & Girls Club late Wednesday afternoon.
To put into proper perspective just how big of a deal this is, consider the following: Pawtucket RBI is one of eight squads from around the United States and Canada and the sole one from New England to garner an invite to the sixth annual Junior RBI Classic.
From the number of games that each participating RBI club is guaranteed to checking out the sights and sounds associated with MLB’s Midsummer Classic, the Pawtucket contingent is staring at a jam-packed itinerary. The squad will be attending the MLB Futures Game and Celebrity Softball Game on Sunday afternoon and the always crowd-pleasing Home Run Derby on Monday night. Those events are taking place at Target Field, home to the Minnesota Twins and Tuesday’s 85th installment of the MLB All-Star Game.
To further drive home the point Bergeron made earlier, the opening ceremonies are to include appearances by Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Roberto Alomar. Other off-field experiences include staying in a college dorm, community service and meeting several current and past major league ballplayers.
Each squad is allotted seven games that will take place at ballfields scattered throughout the Twin Cities. This will feature a friendly, round-robin format as no tournament winner will be declared once the competition ceases.
“It’s not going to be like the Little League World Series,” Bergeron pointed out.
It goes without saying that the lads will have a few stories to tell upon returning to Rhode Island next Tuesday.
“The Junior RBI Classic is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will be both enriching and fun for these young men,” said David James, senior director of the RBI program, in a press release. “These kids will have an unforgettable All-Star experience that they will carry for the rest of their lives and we are very proud to provide this opportunity for them.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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