I'm living proof that Major League Baseball's RBI program can work.
The RBI program is a big reason I'm a Major League player today. The program provided avenues of opportunity I wouldn't have had otherwise. It gave me a chance to grow up on a baseball field and to succeed in the classroom.
My father, who owned restaurants and knew a lot of people, introduced me a man named John Young, who is the founder of RBI. Since I didn't have any place to play in Los Angeles when I was younger, Young gave me those opportunities through his travel teams and a league in nearby Compton.
I was inducted into the RBI Hall of Fame last February and it was a great honor. The idea of becoming a Hall of Famer in anything at my age seemed a bit out of place, though, because you usually associate Hall of Fame inductions with years of distinguished accomplishment.
I don't usually get nervous speaking in public. I speak to large groups of kids all the time. But that group had so many distinguished guests -- former players and celebrities -- that I became a little self-conscious. It was nerve wracking, but it was a great moment for me.
I've followed a pretty long road to get here. I went to four different high schools and two different colleges. Southern University, which is a black college in Louisiana, is where I got my break. Coming out of high school, I was not drafted. Moving around a lot, not a lot of people saw me play.
Some scouts saw me at Southern and, for a variety of reasons, I transferred to a junior college. But my coach at Southern was very influential in my career, and without him, and some other coaches and people -- like John Young with RBI -- I would not be here. They played big parts in my career.
Coco Crisp is one of eight RBI Program alumni to play in the Major Leagues. In 2006, his fifth season and first with the Red Sox, Crisp batted .264 and stole a career-high 22 bases.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.