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MLB's RBI program now helping Buffalo children

MLB is working with the Willie Hutch Jones Educational & Sports program. The goal is to get more underserved children interested in baseball and softball.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When you think of the MLB in Buffalo, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Toronto Blue Jays.

The organization is also in town to help city children.

MLB has designated Buffalo's Willie Hutch Jones Educational & Sports Program (WHJESP) as the newest part of their Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, or RBI, Program.

"We are so excited to be here in Buffalo," said David James, MLB's vice president of baseball & softball development. "We fully expect we'll be here for the long haul."

The goal of the program is to get more underserved children interested in baseball and softball, and give more diverse backgrounds the skills they need to potentially make a career of it someday.

Then there's the even bigger goal. 

"We want to fill this facility and other facilities with young people who will then have the opportunity to get skills and social things also to help them grow and develop. It will keep them from being on the news because somebody got hurt or shot. We want to give them positive things to do to occupy their time. That's what it's all about," said Willie Hutch Jones, founder & director of WHJESP. 

Clinics for kids ages 6 to 18 will be held from July 19 through August 20 at the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Sports Pavilion, Masten Field, and three of Canisius College's fields. 

This is the first time softball is included in the Hutch program, which has been around for almost 40 years.

"I want to train these girls and develop young women into young athletes, and hopefully go into college, go into the Olympics. Whatever they want to do, I want to help them get to that level," said Yanava Hawkins, WHJESP softball coach. 

The MLB RBI program provides resources and funding in more than 200 cities.

They just started working with the Boys and Girls Club of East Aurora this past spring, but has worked with the Northtowns chapter since 2015.

"For the Northtowns, it's brought baseball back. We've seen such a decline in the amount of baseball players and the amount of baseball programs. Now we're able to bring our kids from the Northtowns, from Riverside, from Black Rock to East Aurora to the inner city, and expose them to a completely new world," said Leslie Drdul, with the Boys and Girls Club of the Northtowns.

If you'd like to get involved in the MLB's RBI program in Buffalo, you can call (716) 715-4980 or go to whjsc.org.