Robinson awed by Youth Academy

Robinson awed by Youth Academy

COMPTON, Calif. -- The Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy gets dozens of visitors every day, whether they're kids wanting to learn the game of baseball, scouts keeping an eye on a potential prospect or even former players who want to help instruct the youngsters on how to play the game they love.

Every now and then, a baseball legend walks on to the well-manicured fields of the Compton facility for the first time, takes one look at the place and instantly falls in love with it. While in the past Rod Carew and Dave Winfield have become instant converts, Wednesday was Frank Robinson's turn.

The Hall of Fame player and respected manager, along with his friend and former Orioles teammate, Don Buford, was given a personal tour of the complex by MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon and the academy's director, Darrell Miller.

"I'm very impressed with the facility and the setup here," Robinson said after touring the fields and checking out the locker rooms and educational facilities. "It incorporates just about everything to do with baseball -- softball, youth-league themes. There are regular fields here and the setup is very workable, where it doesn't take you a lot of time to get to where you need to go here. I'm very impressed by it, and this is something that has been long overdue.

"Your mind races forward when you look at this and just think, 10 years from, 15 years from now -- what this will mean to this area. ... The kids who will be coming through here and the opportunity to give them instruction on how to play the game correctly and also preparing them on how to go on to college? I was also taken by the fact that they have umpire instruction, ground crew instruction and that was very impressive," Robinson said.

Robinson, who just finished a six-year stint as manager of the Washington Nationals, was recently rehired by the Commissioner's Office as a special advisor to Solomon. Robinson served as baseball's vice president for on-field operations from 2000-02.

Solomon is excited for the chance to team with Robinson on issues that are important to baseball.

"To work with Frank Robinson, a consummate professional, Hall of Famer and probably one of the most underrated baseball players who ever played the game, is a tremendous opportunity for me," said Solomon. "Frank is going to work with the Academy here as well as work with our western office in Phoenix. He's also going to work in New York with us on a lot of our minority initiatives that the Commissioner has set forth, and he's going to do a lot of work with our West Coast teams."

Robinson is looking forward to working on diverse projects with Solomon.

"I'm excited about coming back to the Commissioner's Office," said Robinson. "I really think I can help a broad scope of people and touch a lot of people. Whatever Jimmie Lee wants me to help him in or take some of the load off him or participate in, I'm there for him. The thing I like is I get to have my hand in a lot of different things that the commissioner's office is involved in."

Since Robinson resides in Los Angeles, the Urban Youth Academy will be seeing a lot of this legend.

"Frank has agreed to help us establish a whole series of educational and instructional seminars," said Solomon. "They will be for coaches and players and also to help the kids thinking about life after baseball as well as other opportunities for vocations within baseball."

"I'll be down here, not on a regular basis, but pretty regular -- coming in and out of here," said Robinson. "I'm looking forward to it."

"Frank understands what it takes to succeed in baseball," said Solomon. "He understands that you need great instruction, you need good people [and] you need talented players, but you also also have to have a great facility. He knows that facilities are very important because they are very few and far between.

"To have a facility here in Compton, in an unserved area, is tremendous, and I knew that once Frank got here and saw this facility, he'd be seduced by it, and I think that we'll find that there will be a love affair between Frank and this facility, and the kids will benefit."

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