"The Texas Rangers and our Baseball Foundation are proud to be partnering with MLB, MLBPA, and Mercy Street on the construction of this Urban Baseball Academy," said Leibman. "The Rangers have made a strong commitment in giving more opportunities for youngsters to participate in baseball and softball programs through our initiatives in the RBI program, Miracle League, and the Globe Life Rangers Baseball and Softball Grant Program. The construction of this Urban Baseball Academy will allow for the extension of those efforts in ways we could not have previously imagined."
"Growing the game of baseball at the grassroots level by making the sport accessible to everyone is something the Players are passionate about," said MLBPA Executive Director, Tony Clark. "We are happy to be joining with Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers to allocate funds from our jointly-operated youth initiative to provide baseball and softball playing opportunities to the young people in North Texas."
The new state-of-the-art facility, which will provide free (or reduced cost) and year-round opportunities for North Texas youth, will be built on a 17-acre site at the intersection of Hampton and Bickers in West Dallas. The new facility will include five fields (including an enhancement of the existing Field of Dreams High School field) and an Academy building. Construction on the four new fields (professional-sized show field, two youth-sized fields and t-ball field) will begin in 2016 on the original site of the Texas Rangers Johnny Oates Youth Ballpark, which opened in 1999 in honor of the late Rangers manager. The professional-sized show field will be named after Oates and will include seating for about 750 spectators. One of the youth fields will be named after Kershaw, who made a personal financial donation to the project. The indoor building will feature a full turf professional-sized infield, six batting/pitching cages, classrooms, and a weight and nutrition room.
The Texas Rangers MLB Urban Youth Academy will be available to children throughout North Texas, especially the more than 8,000 kids who live within the West Dallas neighborhood and youth from the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area. In addition to providing year-round baseball and softball instruction and play, including hosting tournaments, coaching clinics and skills camps, the Academy will provide youth with access to tutoring programs, college prep classes, college and career fairs, financial literacy and internship programs, courses teaching math through the use of baseball statistics, and MLB industry alternative career workshops. Youth also will have opportunities to be involved in drug resistance and gang-prevention programs and healthy lifestyle classes. Additionally, all Academy members and other community youth benefit from Academy facilities and programs through baseball vocational programming, such as umpiring seminars, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports information training, and athletic sports training.
The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation will employ staff to oversee the Academy, and will work with Mercy Street and their existing programming. Mercy Street participates in the Rangers RBI program with 400 young people, and they, along with the nearly 1,500 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) participants throughout the Metroplex area, will have access to the Texas Rangers MLB Urban Youth Academy. The Operations of the Academy will be covered entirely by the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, which also will provide equipment, supplies, utilities and other operating costs.
The Texas Rangers MLB Urban Youth Academy is the ninth announced youth Academy in the United States, joining the most recently announced intentions to build Academies in San Francisco and Kansas City. There are five operational MLB Urban Youth Academies in the country in Cincinnati (Ohio), Compton (California), Houston (Texas), New Orleans (Louisiana) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). Additionally, the Washington Nationals recently established their own Youth Baseball Academy in Washington D.C. The first MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton was established in 2006, and together, all Academies currently provide free, year-round baseball and softball training and instruction to approximately 12,000 young men and women Academy members and over 20,000 more through additional tournaments and programs. In the last two seasons, seven Compton Academy alumni have appeared on MLB rosters, including Khris Davis (Milwaukee Brewers), Anthony Gose (Detroit Tigers), Aaron Hicks (New York Yankees), Efren Navarro (Los Angeles Angels), Jon Singleton (Houston Astros), Trayce Thompson (Chicago White Sox) and Vincent Velasquez (Houston Astros). Forty-six Academy alumni have been selected in the last four First-Year Player Drafts and nearly 160 overall, including Dillon Tate, a Compton Academy alumnus who was the fourth overall selection by the Rangers in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
This project will support the existing efforts of MLB and the MLBPA to attract more youth to the game. A portion of the funds allocated to the project will be supplied by the new MLB-MLBPA joint youth development initiative. Announced in July, the program supports key baseball and softball programs designed to improve access to the sport across the United States and Canada. The Texas Rangers MLB Urban Youth Academy is one of the first projects to receive funding and support from this new MLB-MLBPA initiative.