MLB.com Columnist

Paul Hagen

Philly UYA breaks ground on indoor-outdoor facility

Philly UYA breaks ground on indoor-outdoor facility

PHILADELPHIA -- Four months after the Phillies dedicated four new and renovated baseball fields at FDR Park, there was a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday for the next phase of its Urban Youth Academy: an indoor-outdoor facility in South Philadelphia.

A 7,500 square foot extension will be added to the existing building to create a new training facility. Parts of the existing Marian Anderson Recreation Center will be renovated to create space for fitness training, educational and vocational programs.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Mayor Michael Nutter, Major League Baseball's vice president of youth and facility development Darrell Miller, Phillies chairman Dave Montgomery, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Deputy Mayor Michael DiBeradinis.

"This is an incredible example of the city partnering with community organizations and the private sector to renovate a recreation center in the community that lacks abundant public play spaces. The new classrooms, fitness center and equipment at the [center] will benefit 8,000 players receiving free baseball and softball instruction on a regular basis," Nutter said.

"The city supports the Urban Youth Academy's mission to use baseball and softball to teach young people about teamwork and responsibility, all while teaching them to be active and healthy in these spaces. By providing our young people with a fun and fulfilling environment in their own neighborhood, we're also giving them the tools to learn, to connect and to grow with successful, caring adults who give back to the community on a regular basis."

Philadelphia joins Compton, Houston, New Orleans and Cincinnati as cities with UYAs. A facility in Kansas City has also been announced.

Montgomery noted that leftfielder Pat Burrell, who last played for the Phillies in 2008, contributed seed money and that current first baseman Ryan Howard and his wife, Krystle, stepped up when additional funding was needed.

Also contributing was the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a joint effort between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"These projects take time, and Philadelphia was no exception," Miller said. "We wanted to do something here in the baddest way. You have to understand, the Phillies have been in the trenches 20 years. They've been committed from the very beginning to make sure kids have an opportunity to play baseball.

"We now have the opportunity to take it to the next level. We're not doing anything different. We're just going to do it bigger and better and we're going to have a lot of fun with it. The facilities are going to be big league."

Montgomery also introduced Dr. Mahlene Duckett, whose father, Mahlon, was a Philadelphia native, a Negro League star and the last surviving member of the Philadelphia Stars. When he passed away at the age of 92 this summer, the family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Philles' Urban Youth Academy.

Miller became passionate when discussing the impact these academies can have. "Major League Baseball wants to make sure every child who wants to pick up a bat or a ball or a glove and wants to play catch, or play the game of baseball or girls' softball, gets an opportunity to play," he said.

"Our youth deserve tremendous facilities. They deserve the opportunity to play the game at the highest possible level. They deserve great coaching. They deserve mentoring. They deserve the opportunity to play the greatest game ever created. It's a hard game to play. It takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication. It's all about work. It's all about individual determination. It's the fabric of what our great nation has been built on. And that's hard work. That's what makes great baseball players. That's what makes great softball players. That's what makes Major League contributors to our society."

He caught himself, stopped and smiled. "I'm preaching," he noted. "But the Pope was just here and I'm following his lead. We have a lot to do on this field and on this front throughout America."

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