John Young, who founded RBI, a youth baseball program designed to bring African-American youth back to the sport, died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 67.
"All of us at Major League Baseball are saddened by the loss of John Young, a trailblazer and champion of both professional and youth baseball," commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a statement Monday.
Young, who grew up in Los Angeles, was a first-round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers in 1969. He played only two games in the big leagues but had a lasting impact on the sport.
After his playing career ended, Young became a scout for numerous teams. While working for the Orioles in 1986, Young noted how few African-American players were drafted that year and brought this to the attention of his boss, Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, and then-commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
Ueberroth reached out to the mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, and persuaded him to fund a youth baseball program in the city. Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) was born in 1989, with Young running the show. With $50,000 from the city and additional money from the Amateur Athletic Union, Young organized 180 players into twelve teams of 13- and 14-year-olds.
RBI alumni include CC Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins, Coco Crisp, Carl Crawford, Justin Upton, Yovani Gallardo and Melvin Upton Jr.
MLB assumed operation of the RBI program in 1991. By 2013, there were 200,000 youths in 200 leagues in the United States and around the world taking part in RBI programs. Softball programs have been added, as well as programs for junior and senior youths.
"The legacy John has left with the RBI program is evident in the impact it has had on young people who have grown to be important contributors to our society as teachers, police officers, doctors, youth coaches and as professional baseball players," Manfred wrote. "On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to John's wife Sheryl, their children Dorian, Jon and Tori and their entire family, as well as his many friends throughout our game."
Funeral arrangements are pending.