Dodgers dedicated to youth baseball in LA area

Foundation invested $1.5 million in Dreamfields, RBI programs in past year

Dodgers dedicated to youth baseball in LA area

LOS ANGELES -- While continuing to mine for ballplayer talent all over the world, the Dodgers remain just as committed to supporting youth baseball in their backyard.

The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, the club's charitable arm, invested $1.5 million in the past year to its cornerstone programs -- the Dodgers Dreamfields and Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI).

The Dreamfields program has a long-term goal of completing 50 youth baseball facilities in Southern California. Currently, 37 have been built at an investment of more than $5 million. The goal is to upgrade a community infrastructure to provide youth with an organized program to learn the game in a safe environment, according to Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation executive director Nichol Whiteman.

Investment in these new Dreamfields varies depending on the need at each location, but typically include: upgrades to the backstops, addition of roofs over the dugouts, bench upgrades, irrigation improvements, re-grading to insure smooth and consistent playing surfaces, new infield mix, new bases, home-plate and pitching rubbers, new outfield fencing, renovation of field turf or, where necessary, installation of new sod, new signage and a new scoreboard. 

Among the 2015 projects is one at Mary M. Bethune Park, which will serve as the future home of the Dodgers' RBI program; and the Baldwin Hill Recreation Center, which in partnership with Miracle League, City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, will include a universally-accessible Dreamfield in the spirit of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

The RBI program is an urban youth baseball and softball program that consists of 4,000 boys and girls, ages 5-18, that offers them the opportunity to learn and enjoy baseball and softball, while also emphasizing education, recreation and healthy habits.

LADF provides uniforms and equipment, recruitment assistance, supplemental marketing assistance, cash grants for umpires and field maintenance, coaching clinics, special events and tournaments and education and health resources to all partners. In the first season alone, Dodgers RBI offered youth baseball/softball clinics, financial literacy seminars, free eye screenings/exams and eyeglasses and several visits to Dodger Stadium.

While the goal of Dodgers RBI is to create a sustainable, scalable model that includes 10,000 youth in the target age group of 5-18, particular emphasis will be placed on youth ages 13-15 to address the significant playing dropoff in this age span. Efforts will be steered towards increasing the declining number of African-American youth participating in baseball, and further emphasis will be placed on increasing the number of girls playing softball.

The Dodgers support the RBI program at 22 sites in the area, including the MLB Urban Youth Academy fields.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.