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Tropicana Field will host teenage ballplayers

(ran East, South, Beach, Seminole editions)

A few teenage baseball players will get a taste of the big time this weekend.

St. Petersburg's RBI League, finishing its fifth season here, will play part of its annual Showcase Tournament on Saturday at Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Devil Rays play.

Tropicana action will follow Friday's first-round games at the Naimoli Complex, 7901 30th Ave. N. Games start at 8 a.m. both days in two divisions: juniors (13-15 years old) and seniors (16-18). Teams from Tampa's RBI League also are entered, and the tournament is structured so that one team from St. Petersburg and one from Tampa will meet in the championship games.

Meanwhile, junior and senior division all-star teams have been chosen. They will play in a southeastern regional tournament next week in Memphis, where a berth in the national tournament will be at stake.

Sponsored by the Devil Rays, the RBI League is gaining a reputation for helping create outstanding players. Major League Baseball drafted five former RBI stars last month, including Ryan Harvey, picked sixth overall by the Chicago Cubs.

Harvey became the most highly drafted player in Pinellas County history.

Other draftees included Lastings Milledge, drafted by the New York Mets; Jesse Litsch (Colorado Rockies), Brian LeClerc (Baltimore Orioles) and David Scott (Cincinnati Reds).

Scott is the son of Donnie Scott, a former youth league star in Pinellas Park who played catcher in the majors and is now a Reds coach.

"We have good coaches who've worked with these kids since age 9 or 10," said Charles Dennis, St. Petersburg RBI director. "And we manage to have kids come out. The league is flourishing and it's bigger every year. It seems like the more kids come out, the better the talent."

RBI stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities. There are about 150 such leagues nationwide, each sponsored by a Major League team or in some cases, a Major League player. Part of the idea is to encourage youngsters who live in the older sections of urban communities; uniforms and registration are free. But the league is open to anyone who wants to play.

St. Petersburg's RBI League plays its regular season games at Oliver Field in Campbell Park.

Senior Division all-stars include Ravi Rai, Phillip Weylie, Jesse Litsch, Jeff DeLaConcha, Chris MacDonald, Kevin McKesson, Sean Barber, Devon Smith, Kyle Scott, Charlie Diehl, Casey Allen, Dontrail Brinson, Grant Massey, Damian Rouderbush, Patron Jones and Tim Whitmire. Coaches are Carl East, Rick Litsch, Don Reigle and Tim Scott.

Junior Division all-stars are Greg Hott, Ryan Luker, Irving De La Concha, Jennings George, Thomas Eatherton, Josh Jackson, Marreese Speights, James Norato, Cris Clinton, Charles Mason, Victopher Pagan, Chris Wallace, Jonathan Brown, King Moore, Matt Bradberry and Joe Messina. Coaches are John Takarewicz, Ernie Washington, Kevin Clinton and Scott Wallace.