By MEL SUITER
BROOKSVILLE, Fla.--- She respects the game, she honors the game by playing hard and by all definition-she is a ballplayer.
As a student-athlete playing on the school’s softball team, Jean’a Mobley, 19, graduated from Hernando High School in 2018.
Mobley did not hang up her cleats after graduation.
Mobley received an invitation that was extended to her from her current teammate Jadyn Clark, to join her team as a player for the Major League Baseball sponsored Reviving Baseball in Inner City last season, the Tampa Bay Rays softball team.
Just like last summer, this year’s team will be playing in the 2019 Major League Baseball-RBI World Series and just like last season, the Rays are looking to repeat as champions.
At the start of this year's baseball season, The Major League Baseball-RBI Program is 31 years old and started in South Central Los Angeles under the direction of a former baseball player for the Detroit Tigers and scout John Young. He felt that there was no interest in playing baseball in urban areas.
For the first tryout, only 11 players showed up, as there was no confidence that the program would be successful.
With Young's dedication and hard work to guarantee the success of the program, this program has expanded with 150,000 young men and women playing the game of baseball or softball. Major League Baseball joined Young's program in 1991 and helped with getting some corporate sponsorship and acquiring baseball equipment.
The mission of the program is to increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth.
The program promotes greater inclusion of youth with diverse backgrounds into the game.
Another goal of the program is to increase the number of talented athletes playing in college or professionally, by encouraging school work and achievement and teaching the value of teamwork.
Mobley says, she believes in the goals of the program, she leads by example for the younger players that play for the Rays. When she plays the game, she wants to provide a positive example for the younger players, with a philosophy that the younger players can witness-that you can always give back to your community.
“It is good to have different options, there are two baseball leagues and one softball league,” Mobley said. “It is nice for kids to have a place to go, they’re just not at home playing video games. Those kids can come out and play baseball or softball and get into it early.”
Mobley describes her game as a power hitter at the plate but she really likes to play her position at first base. It is her contribution to her team, doing all that she can do, to make the play at first by making good picks and catching the ball with her mitt.
“I really like picking the ball at first base,” Mobley said. “Like if a teammate makes a really good play and then if they make a bad throw, then being able to come up with it, shows that I got their back.
With an undefeated season under their baseball caps, there is really no misconceptions about this team. When these Rays take command of the field they like to set the tone early against the opposition.
“We are upbeat,” Mobley said. “We set the tone early they say ‘who are these girls!’”
The experience playing for the softball Rays has given Mobley and her teammates an opportunity to make some special memories and appreciate the support from the major league team, Tampa Bay Rays.
The softball team has been a guest of the major league club, the Tampa Bay Rays, to watch baseball games, tours of the clubhouse and meeting players at Tropicana Field. They have also been able to participate in special community events that have been sponsored by the Rays.
“We played a game against the wives of Tampa Bay Rowdies in a slow pitch game at Tropicana Field,” Mobley said. “Through the RBI, we do the ‘Joy of Giving’ at Raymond James Stadium, we’ve been doing that every year during Christmas time, giving out toys and stuff.”
Mobley and the Tampa Bay Rays softball team got started early Sunday morning Aug 11, at 8 a.m. against the winner of the Mid-Atlantic Regional winner, the RBI of Greater Harrisburg in the city of Vero Beach, Fla. They take the field again Sunday night, under the lights against the winner of the Central 2 Regional representing the Great Lakes and the state of Ohio, the Cleveland Baseball Federation RBI. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
They are ballplayers and you can see that. It is evident from the deep emerald grass stains on their knees of their pants, the bright red dirt on the uniform shirt that gets dark red because of the sweat and the strawberry worn as a badge of pride on their arm.
There is no mistake about this team or with Mobley, these ladies of the diamond really love the game of softball and inside a city park in the city of Vero Beach, they are determined to make their Field of Dreams come true.