Five Bowie high-schoolers donned Washington Nationals jerseys and joined 10 other Prince George’s County students to compete against a Baltimore all-star baseball team at the Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie.
The July 17 game was part of the Mid-atlantic Tournament held by Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, an international organization dedicated to increasing urban youth participation in baseball. Reviving Baseball holds tournaments between all-star teams from participating cities and counties each year, and sends winning teams to a World Series championship where players compete in front of college and professional scouts.
The Prince George’s County high school team placed third in the Mid-Atlantic Tournament — one of seven nationwide tournaments. The county’s junior league, composed of players ages 13 to 15 won first place and qualified for the RBI World Series.
Bennett Garner, 17, of Bowie was one of the 15 players chosen to be part of the Prince George’s County senior team, which is sponsored by Major League Baseball team the Washington Nationals.
While Garner’s team did not qualify for the World Series, he said he was proud of his teammates — many of whom were strangers before they were assembled into the Prince George’s County senior team a few weeks before the tournament.
“I think we played really well. Our pitching was pretty much great all weekend, our hitting was just a little bit shaky,” he said. “Overall, you couldn’t ask for a better weekend with a great group of guys.”
The county’s participation in RBI is organized through the Prince George’s County Boys and Girls Club and the county Department of Parks and Recreation.
Calvin Massie, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said the county became involved with RBI three years ago to promote baseball among youths.
“The baseball program here in Prince George’s County several years ago was sort of decreasing,” he said. “Through Parks and Recreation, we have a partnership with the Washington Nationals and were able to obtain the RBI licence within the local area. Within the last four to five years, we went from 46 [baseball] teams to over 100.”
Byron Thompson, a sports specialist for the county’s department of parks and recreation, said increasing the popularity of baseball adds diversity to the county’s sports offerings.
“We know that football and basketball are very strong operating programs in the county. We’re making a strong push for baseball as our next initiative,” he said. “For kids who may not be big enough for football or tall enough for basketball but are athletic, baseball is an opportunity for them to get a professional career.”
Garner said he knows many talented high school baseball players in the county who are not recognized because he said Prince George’s County is not generally known for its baseball teams.
“I agree with the idea that baseball [is not as popular] in this county,” he said. “I think [the RBI tournament] is a great chance to give all these guys who don’t get credit a chance to show off their skills and represent our county as well.”