SURPRISE, Ariz. — Michael Choice has noticed it his entire career. So has Prince Fielder.The percentage of African Americans playing in the big leagues is, as Fielder said, “low.” Last year, Opening Day rosters had about 8.5 percent black players.That’s why both were pleased to learn that Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program is coming to Fort Worth for the first time this year. The Rangers Foundation, along with manager Ron Washington and left-hander Martin Perez, are financially supporting the creation of the program.“You always want to keep youth in the game and help it progress,” Choice said. “Almost every team I’ve ever been on I’m usually the only African American kid.”Choice believes that money is the reason why more inner-city children from all ethnic backgrounds don’t play baseball. Equipment is expensive, as well as private lessons and select leagues that travel across the country to play.Fielder agreed and said it also has to do with football and basketball being more enjoyable for young kids to watch on TV.“It’s hard to blame them because it’s not as fun to watch baseball,” Fielder said. “Once you get out there and play it, you might realize how fun it is. That’s the key – getting out there and doing it and seeing if you like it or not.”That’s the goal of the RBI program. It’s designed for children ages 13 thru 18 from underserved and diverse communities to have the opportunity to play baseball and softball, encourage academic achievement and success and teach the value of teamwork and other important life lessons.The program is now in Fort Worth. The registration fee for the 2014 Fort Worth RBI program is $10 for a community center membership and $15 for the league. Interested parents can register at any of the 20 Fort Worth community centers or call the City of Fort Worth Youth Athletics program at 817-392-7690. Registration ends March 12.The Rangers will host an RBI Day at Globe Life Park on July 13, and they are also hosting the 2014 and 2015 RBI World Series.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison