John Young was a major league baseball player and scout, but has built a lasting legacy by creating the RBI program for underprivileged youth.
Young was born in south Los Angeles on February 9, 1949. He attended Mount Carmel High School where he was elected as student body vice president while competing in baseball and basketball.
In 1969, Young was drafted as a 16th overall pick to the Detroit Tigers, but only played two games with the major league club. Young played on different minor league clubs from 1969-1977. In 1971, he played for the Montgomery Rebels of the Southern League, where he made 17 home runs and 20 doubles.
That following year, Young played for the Evansville Triplets AAA club, but his season was cut short due to injury. By 1975, Young was competing for the Arkansas Travelers in the Texas League and had a batting average of over .320 for two consecutive years.
After his playing days ended, Young became a minor league instructor for the Tigers in 1978 and a scout the next year. Young became the first Black director of Scouts when the Tigers hired him for the position in 1981. He worked with several teams, including the Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, and Florida Marlins.
From 1979-1987, Young signed 21 players to their first professional contract with the MLB. When Young was scouting for the Baltimore Orioles in 1986, he became concerned about the decreasing numbers of African American players being drafted.
He brought this to the attention of former Orioles general manager Roland Hemond and then commissioner Peter Ueberroth. After talking with the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation and visiting inner-city schools, he noticed that students from 13 to 16 years old tend to become disinterested in baseball for various reasons.
To rejuvenate interest in baseball among teenagers, Young created a comprehensive program called RBI. With a $50,000 from the City of Los Angeles and funds from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Young managed 12 RBI teams out of 180 players who were 13 and 14 years old.
Along with elevating the athletic talent of the Angeleno youth, RBI gave them a team-building activity that challenged them in various ways. Major league Baseball donated to RBI, Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry participated in the program and gave donations also.
Young wanted to add an academic component to RBI and created the Academy of Excellence Program with help from Santa Monica College. MLB pitcher Kevin Brown sponsored the program and it offered a human development program, tutoring, classes on time management and goal setting, and SAT prep courses.
In the early 1990s the RBI program was adopted by other cities. In 1991, MLB began administering RBI. In 1989, Young was inducted into the Chapman University Hall of Fame and the Marlins nominated him for the Branch Rickey Award in 1991.
Young began working at the Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner, supporting the RBI program in 1998.