Sports Spectrum believes in highlighting local ministries doing awesome work through sports. Today we feature RBI Austin as told by their Director and Founder Matt Price
“Coach, have you ever been to that strip club?” We were driving home from a summer baseball game. Joey and another player from the East Austin Blazers high school summer team were in my truck. I answered, “No, Joey, I actually never have been to that strip club.” Joey continued, “Why not, Coach? My uncle goes there and says it’s great.”
I thought for a second and then said, “Well, Joey, you know what… there probably would have been a time in my life where I would have gone there, but Jesus Christ changed my heart and I don’t even have a desire to go there. The Bible tells us that God made every person – man and woman – in His image and that we should treat every person with dignity and respect. We can honor God and women by not going to strip clubs.”
Joey was shocked. “You really believe that, Coach? Tell me more…”
This conversation took place in Summer 2009. The first East Austin Blazers baseball team had formed that year, and consisted of players from two inner-city high schools in Austin, Texas. These players didn’t otherwise have the opportunity to play summer ball, so the East Austin Blazers team was formed to provide them a team.
The East Austin Blazers quickly became much more than a summer baseball team. It became a family.
The majority of the players on this team were fatherless and had no consistent guidance or Christian influence in their lives. Statistically, these students had better odds of joining a gang than going to college.
But we saw the Lord use that baseball team to begin changing the hearts of these inner-city youth and to change the hearts of us coaches too. Mutually transforming relationships sprung up left and right within the team.
Two years later in 2011, the East Austin Blazers became RBI Austin. The vision was to see more of these mutually transforming relationships take place between inner-city Austin youth and Christian coaches and mentors. We affiliated ourselves with Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program (RBI), partnered with local churches, and begin reaching East Austin boys and girls as young as 4 years old.
Today in 2017, RBI Austin consists of over 1,000 inner-city Austin kids playing on over 70 baseball and softball teams. RBI Austin also now includes an 8-year mentor match program, afterschool programming, camps, and clinics throughout the year.
More than the programs themselves, RBI Austin values the relationships these programs foster. For most inner-city youth, the major gap in their life is not access to another program or resource; the major gap is relationships. Inner-city children desperately need consistent, enduring relationships with people who will guide them in the right direction. In poor, inner-city neighborhoods, there is a dire shortage of these relationships.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Through relationships, inner-city kids can come to know the hope and salvation found in Jesus Christ.
Through relationships, kids can understand the value of education and the doors it can open for them.
Through relationships, kids can desire to become faithful future fathers, husbands, mothers, and wives.
Through relationships, kids can develop into all God has created them to be.
Through relationships, even coaches and mentors see the Lord change their own hearts and draw them closer to Jesus.
For RBI Austin, baseball and softball have been the primary mediums through which these relationships have formed since our first Blazers team in 2009. Baseball and softball have been the glue that has brought our community of 1,000+ kids, their families, coaches, and mentors together.
As church attendance has declined in our country, many have pegged sports as the new religion of today’s society. Our prayer is that God would flip that trend upside down and use sports as a vessel to start a gospel movement in our country. A movement in which sports is a bridge builder between poor and rich, black, brown, and white, churched and unchurched, “haves” and “have nots”. A movement in which God reconciles people to Himself and to one another.
May the Lord use sports as a means for people to hear and believe, that they may have life in Jesus’ name.
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” – Romans 10:13-14
RBI Austin’s mission is to engage and develop inner-city Austin youth athletically, academically, and spiritually, empowering them to lead the transformation of their communities.
For more info, you can visit www.rbiaustin.org or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter (@RBIaustin).