The official groundbreaking for the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy took place today on the site of the new facility in West Dallas.
The Rangers, Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and Dallas-based Mercy St. are partnering to build the new state-of-the-art facility, which will provide free (or reduced cost) and year-round opportunities for North Texas youth, on a 17-acre site at the intersection of Hampton and Bickers. Representatives of the partnering organizations took part in today's groundbreaking.
It was also announced today that Rangers players Prince Fielder and Cole Hamels will be making contributions for the Urban Youth Academy. Fielder's contribution will go towards the construction of what will be called the Prince Fielder Batting Cages. The Hamels Foundation, which was launched by Cole and Heidi Hamels in 2008 to support education, will make a contribution which will be directed to the Academy's future classroom programming. Fielder and Hamels also took part in Friday's groundbreaking.
The new facility will include five fields (including an enhancement of the existing Field of Dreams High School field) and an Academy building. Grading has begun on the part of the project south of Bickers. The fields (Clayton Kershaw Field, the second baseball field, and the t-ball field) are expected to be finished in March so that Rangers Mercy Street RBI programming can continue and Mercy Street can hold other games. Dallas ISD High Schools will continue to use the existing Mercy Street Field of Dreams. The buildings and other elements for the area south of Bickers will be completed by end of May.
The construction on the area north of Bickers including the Academy building and the rebuild of the original Johnny Oates Field will begin in April, when the other fields have been completed so as to avoid any stoppage in baseball and softball programming. The Texas Rangers Johnny Oates Youth Ballpark, which opened in 1999 in honor of the late Rangers manager, will be rebuilt as a professional-sized show field and will include seating for about 750 spectators. The Clayton Kershaw Field is named for the Los Angeles Dodgers standout and North Texas native, 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.
Participants in today's groundbreaking:
Jon Daniels, General Manager, Texas Rangers and Board Member, Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation
Tony Reagins, Sr. Vice President, Youth Programs, Major League Baseball
Trey Hill, Executive Director, Mercy Street
Karin Morris, Executive Director, Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation
Darrell Miller, Major League Baseball
Troy Broussard, Dallas Housing Authority
Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Rangers Mercy Street RBI participants