By Elizabeth Fields
If you happened to walk by the baseball field at the JFK Learning Center on Henderson Avenue in East Dallas weekdays from June 4-15, you would have seen boys and girls, ages 7-11, learning to bat, catch and throw.
If you really stopped and watched, however, you would have quickly learned that what was going on at the Dave Andres Baseball Field was much more than simple catch-and-throw exercises.
RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) Camp is a free baseball summer camp for Dallas ISD students. Started four years ago by recent Greenhill School graduate Louis Andres — son of Marc and Debbie Andres, and grandson of the baseball field’s namesake — RBI is now run by Louis’ younger brother, Miles, a rising junior at Greenhill. Greenhill varsity and junior varsity baseball players coach RBI campers.
The camp is supported by donations from the Texas Rangers and the Major League Baseball’s Junior RBI program.
The Andres family had a longtime connection with the area through its real-estate and development business. Paul Stanley, a 2009 Greenhill graduate and friend of the Andres family, led the fundraising effort for the field under the mentorship of Marc Andres. They requested it be named for Marc’s father.
When Louis first came up with the idea for RBI Camp four years ago, he decided to conduct a one-day clinic to measure the interest in a baseball camp.
“We had heard that there was a lot of good baseball talent but that the kids didn’t get a lot of opportunity outside of P.E. classes to play. We did a one-day clinic to see how many kids would come out. We had 40 to 50 kids,” Louis said. “There are kids who definitely have the skills, but they don’t always have the opportunity to practice.”
Coming from a baseball family, Louis and Miles wanted to share their love of baseball with those who didn’t receive the same personalized attention to baseball skills as they did growing up.
“Baseball has always been a big family thing. There has always been this great connection with baseball,” Louis said. “My grandfather coached my dad, my dad coached Miles, so running a baseball camp always seemed most fitting. We are big Rangers fans too.”
Because of the family connection, choosing to start a baseball-specific camp was a no-brainer, Louis explained.
“The connections created in baseball run deep,” he said. “We have boys and girls ages 7-11 and somehow they all can bond over baseball. Everyone has a good time doing it.”
RBI’s popularity has grown so much since its first year that Louis and Miles added a second session this year, having had 50 campers sign up in the first 48 hours of registration. Not only are new kids coming to camp, but also the camp is full of returning kids and their siblings.
“We have a kid who has come since he was 7 and now he is 11. Seeing him grow, we don’t want to stop that for any other kid,” Miles said.
Besides learning baseball skills, campers create bonds with their coaches. Take, for example, the fact that no kid goes by his or her actual name. Every kid gets a nickname at the beginning of camp.
“It started the first year when a bunch of kids wanted different names on their nametags,” Miles said. “Louis and I thought it was a great way for us to get close with the campers. We give them a nickname or we ask them what they want their nickname to be. We have fun with them, and they call each other by their nicknames, too. ‘Downtown,’ ‘Bam Bam,’ ‘Yoshi,’ ‘Champ,’ ‘Lizard Man’ and ‘Sweetie Lou,’ the nicknames are much more engraved in my mind than the actual names of the campers,” Miles said.
With Louis heading to the University of Texas at Austin this fall, and Miles quickly approaching his senior year at Greenhill, the Andres brothers are beginning to think about the future of RBI Camp. They hope younger Hornets baseball players in their sister, Elise’s, eighth-grade class will eventually take on the camp.
“We just want it to keep on going,” Miles said. “We just don’t want it to end.”
To learn more about RBI Camp visit www.rbicamp.com.