MINNEAPOLIS -- It may be their first trip to the RBI World Series, but both New Orleans RBI and Mississippi RBI mean business.
Both serving as Southwest Region Champions, in the junior and senior divisions respectively, New Orleans RBI and Mississippi RBI are soaking in all the new experiences the World Series has to offer, but are still keeping focused on the reason they're here in the first place -- to win some baseball games.
"The actual playing, I think that's going to come easy to them," New Orleans coach Eric Soublet said.
The Mississippi team has been on the brink of entering the tournament for several years running, reaching the regional championship game four years in a row. They finally earned a trip to the World Series with a close 2-1 win over Arlington RBI in their most recent and fourth attempt. Coach Brian Emory noted that being at the World Series after three previous years of coming so close is a landmark moment for the program.
After that first plane ride for many of the players, Mississippi RBI arrived in Minnesota, soaking in everything the opportunity had afforded them. But they also don't mean to sit silently. Packed among their gloves and bats, is a new mantra Emory wants his players to take to heart: "We belong."
"We know that we're supposed to be here," catcher Sam Campbell said.
"We belong in this tournament," Emory said. "That's what we've been saying all along. Our little motto or whatever is 'We belong.' … We belong here and the guys earned their way here so I don't want them to be intimidated by all this."
The trip is extra special for utility player and pitcher Kendrick Walk, who was one of 12 2013 RBI for RBI Scholarship recipients. Walk was honored, along with the other recipients, Saturday night at the World Series' opening banquet. Walk will attend Jackson State University in the fall, where he'll continue to play baseball, along with Campbell.
"Right now, we're just taking it all in as it comes to us," Walk said prior to the banquet. "Right now it's a little rough because we don't know which way to go because it's our first time. But I think we'll be alright.
"When it comes to game time, everything changes."
Meanwhile their fellow Regional champions -- New Orleans -- are riding a whirlwind season into the World Series.
The New Orleans team was put together for the first time this season in the RBI program by Soublet. While many of the kids had previously played together in other leagues, they came together in just three weeks before playing in the regional tournament.
"The kids really came along quickly," Soublet said. "They're very talented. They've played [together] as kids -- most of them played travel ball -- but our job was to try and get them together. … Since it all happened, it's a big accomplishment. The city is very excited."
While it's their first taste of the World Series together, they have one thing in mind.
"This is all business," right-handed pitcher Alonzo Bowie said. "We're trying to win a championship. Play as a team, win as a team."
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.