RBI baseball program helps girls go to college, stay out of trouble

A youth baseball program famous for directing talented boys toward the major leagues is now developing its softball division for girls. KPCC's Patricia Nazario went to an awards ceremony Tuesday for a 17-year-old catcher. She could wind up with a free ride to the college of her choice.

Patricia Nazario: Next month Monique Zevada is set to graduate from John Marshall High School. She's still deciding which college to attend.

Zevada says that's not where her head was at all when she first walked onto campus three years ago. She says she used to hang out with a gossipy crowd. She used the Spanish equivalent of that phrase, 'Chisma.'

Monique Zevada: 'Chisma' meaning they just like drama. They revolve themselves around drama. So, I was really, always wanting to get into a fight, because of like rumors and stuff.

Nazario: Monique's mom, Gabriella Garcia, says her daughter was never into drugs. But her attitude quickly won her a bad reputation with school counselors, or consejeros. She remembers when the softball coach told Monique's consejero that she wanted the girl on her team.

Gabriella Garcia: El consejero le dijo que she was picking the wrong person, because she was always in trouble.

Nazario: The organization Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, or RBI, takes a crack at students like Monique. More than 4,000 kids around the world are on its rosters. RBI's founder John Young says organized sports help build self-confidence and develop stable citizens.

He presented Monique Zevada with the organization's annual award for the softball player who best exemplifies its mission. They were on the stage of Marshall High's auditorium facing 700 of her schoolmates.

John Young: She's really blossomed and she's a special young lady.

[Cheering classmates]

Nazario: 20 years ago in South L.A., Young started Reclaiming Baseball in Inner Cities. There's no professional softball league yet for women to aim for, but Young says that for now he's satisfied using the sport to direct students with few resources toward college and careers in and beyond sports.

RBI raises about $150,000 with its annual golf tournament. The organization uses the money to help cover college expenses for students like Monique Zevada.