MILWAUKEE -- The headlines coming out of the inner city can sometimes be negative, but there's a program aimed at keeping young people focused on positive activities, and away from crime that life on the streets can bring. It's having an impact on multiple aspects of their lives, and most importantly, it's giving them hope.
"I'm in love with the sport," Jonathan Pinales said.
At Milwaukee's Sherman Park Field, the passion for baseball shines through -- especially when Pinales is out on the diamond.
"It's a great sport. Just in love with it actually. I actually started playing because of my little brother," Pinales said.
Pinales' immediate family grew, not from his bloodline, but from the bond he and his teammates in the RBI Program of Greater Milwaukee have shared.
"We always hang out with each other outside of baseball. Like, half the team goes to Riverside. So we see each other there, and play for the high school team. And then like on the weekends, if we don't have a tournament, we'll just go to the pool or something and just kick it, as we say," Pinales said.
They have been kicking it for nearly a decade.
Along with Pinales, Max Montgomery has been involved since its inception.
"We grew up together and got a lot better as time went on because of our training and the camps we went to," Montgomery said.
RBI stands for "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities," and its a Major League Baseball outreach program.
Miguel Green started Milwaukee's chapter of the program.
"We originally started nine years ago. We had one team. That one team was a 15 U team of eight kids to 12 kids that actually didn't really play a lot of baseball. Now we have six travel teams. We have roughly 1,000 kids in the Milwaukee area that are in the RBI program," Green said.
The teamwork that was developed has helped the players excel on the field, and it has done just as much, if not more, off of it.
"It made me realize never to give up. Because I've given up a couple of times. I was going to give up on baseball. I said, 'this ain't the right thing for me.' Then they just sat down and talked to me -- like, took me to the right path, I should say," Pinales said.
"It helped me grow as a person, honestly, because of the friends I made here. There's a lifetime of friends. School, coaches help you with it. You know, just the people you hang around with. They help you with every day problems. They help you get to games, you know, get places you need to go. They really help you a lot in everything in life," Montgomery said.
"Now I'm trying to take my talent down to CLC, which is College of Lake County. So they actually opened a lot of doors for me to go to college," Pinales said.
"We have young men who are actually going to college off of baseball -- so to see them grow up and now, all of a sudden, they're playing good baseball, they're getting good grades in school, and they're actually driving to practice. It kind of makes it outstanding to see them becoming adults, becoming successful people in their community," Green said.
For Pinales, before becoming part of RBI, success wasn't something he even thought about.
"If I wasn't in this program, I would probably be on the streets over there somewhere like, joining a gang or something. When I was younger, I would just say I was going to be a nobody, to be honest. Now, realizing what the coaches put in to you, and great teammates you have, like, I don't think you want to lose that. So I'm just going to keep pursuing that goal," Pinales said.
The goal of playing professionally is something many of these players aspire to -- so when the Milwaukee Brewers chose a former RBI player from Chicago, Corey Ray, in the first round of the draft, the kids saw something special.
"Not many think that kids from these levels will make it, and to see someone like him make it, is really an achievement for him. It makes all of us believe that we can also do it," Montgomery said.
"It's hope. Like don't ever give up. He used to tell us that all the time. Don't give up. And it actually paid off for him. So that's what we're going to do. We're not giving up," Pinales said.
Green isn't giving up either, as he sees something very special on the field.
"When I see...I know I can look and see all these guys are doing well as far as in high school and middle school. It brings tears to my eyes. I'm very happy for the program," Green said.
The program is run through the Boys and Girls Clubs and is sponsored by the Milwaukee Brewers.
There are also opportunities for girls with RBI softball teams.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the RBI Program of Greater Milwaukee.