Urban Youth Academy hosts golf event

Academy hosts first golf event

CITY OF INDUSTRY, Calif. -- In its nearly 10 months of existence, the MLB Urban Youth Academy, located in Compton, Calif., has opened a lot of eyes in the baseball world.

The academy, which operates year-round, has already fielded competitive teams of young players in tournaments, served as a showcase for such events as the 2006 RBI World Series and begun a curriculum of educating both kids and adults in support of the game that they may pursue as a career.

Friday, many former and current Major League players -- including Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Kenny Lofton, Tommy Davis and Vince Coleman -- came to the Pacific Palms Conference Resort for the academy's first annual golf tournament.

"For the first time, to roll this out and have Hall of Famers and players come out, who played 8, 10, 15 and 16 years in the game, shows you the kind of support we have, not only in the baseball community, but outside the baseball community," said academy director Darrell Miller. "There's a lot of great guys out here and a lot of guys from Compton, who want to show the connection. They were lining up to play in this tournament. Hubie Brooks is a perfect example. He's from Compton and he wanted to come out and show that he supports this program."

"This is fantastic," said MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Jimmie Lee Solomon. "Darrell and his staff have done a fantastic job of getting the academy rolling in the Southern California community. Everybody knows about it now, and he called up a lot of his friends to come out and support us at our first golf tournament. The support has been fantastic, the day is beautiful and the golf course we are playing on -- who can beat that?"

Solomon actually got off to a late start in the tournament because he was in one of the Pacific Palm's offices on a conference call, as the baseball owners approved the latest collective bargaining agreement with the players union.

Solomon, who has shepherded the academy project from it's infancy, was in good spirits about the agreement and the tournament.

"I am pleasantly surprised by the turnout, but I secretly think that Darrell's personality and his commitment to baseball in the Southern California area did a lot to help us with that," Solomon said. "And the academy is a first-rate facility that anybody that goes to it falls in love with it."

"I pay particular attention to the academy for a variety of reasons," said Winfield, who is now an executive with the San Diego Padres. "Here is a major facility that has been put in a place to not only teach baseball, but life skills, education, health -- a lot of components that are critical to kids growing up nowadays, and Major League Baseball has a big part in it."

The players and other participants had the pleasure of breaking in the the newly remodeled Eisenhower Course at Pacific Palms. Other ballplayers in attendance love to play golf, but they also fully support the beneficiary of this event.

"There are certain organizations that I feel are important to support and this is one I feel very strongly about," said Lofton, who helped the Dodgers make it to the postseason in 2006. "I also donated money to this organization because it's a promising organization and myself and many other players have been looking forward to having this academy in the U.S., because they have them in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. So, I'm glad we finally have one here in the states. It's an impressive place with beautiful facilities and dedicated teachers who are showing the kids how to play the game the right way."

"I'm very happy to see this academy succeed," said Davis, the former two-time National League batting champion. "The guys who are here today understand what's going on and they want to help somebody that didn't get help when we were younger. We didn't have these kind of facilities, we had to do the best we could. So anytime you have something like this academy, you know the guys will be here to help."

Besides the golf tournament, the academy hosted both a live and silent auction with dozens of items donated by various players and teams like the Dodgers, Angels and Padres.

"Our goal is going to be $70,000 for this event," said Miller. "We hope to go a little bit higher, that depends on the generosity of people who bid on the silent and live auction. If we can get to $100,000, we will be singing everyone's praises."

For Solomon, the Compton academy is hopefully the first of many.

"Hopefully, by next year, we will have the next site located," said Solomon. "With some luck we will start work on a second academy."

But for now, the current academy is getting a lot of love and support from many people connected with the game of baseball.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.