Belvedere Park in East LA is site of newest venues for kids
By Jack Baer
LOS ANGELES -- For the first time in quite a while, Julio Urias was one of the oldest players on the field. The 19-year-old and J.P. Howell were on hand as the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation dedicated its 43rd and 44th Dodgers Dreamfields at Belvedere Park in East Los Angeles.
More than 400 kids from the Dodgers' RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program joined in on the event, which included a clinic with the two Dodgers pitchers and an assortment of Dodgers alumni.
The two immaculate fields, complete with Dodger Stadium-style hexagonal scoreboards, are meant to provide young players an organized, safe program in which to learn the game of baseball, according to LADF executive director Nichol Whiteman.
"With the Dodgers Dreamfield program, we're providing a safe space for kids to play in their community around the corner from their homes," Whiteman said. "To be able to put a structured program on the fields as well where 400-plus kids are able to play baseball or softball and really develop, not just in baseball skills, but in sportsmanship, life skills, is very significant. They're receiving a ton of education resources, health resources that translate to the actual family. It just doesn't stop here on the baseball field."
Partners for the event included the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, LA84 Foundation, Nike, Security Benefit and Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District, Board of Supervisors, County of Los Angeles.
The Dodgers RBI program is part of MLB's overall RBI program, which has served approximately two million people since its inception. The program is aimed at kids from underserved and diverse communities.
Howell, a California native, said the point of the clinic wasn't to teach kids how to play so much as to give them confidence and keep them on a safe path. Howell and his wife Heather do something similar with their own foundation, Discover Your Path.
"I had the throwing station, and it didn't matter how you throw. Some kids were nervous and they did it, which was awesome," Howell said. "I remember when I was a kid I got nervous and it held me back a lot. It took some adults to help me get through that or fight a fear, whatever it was. It's all about trying and having a good time."
Urias also has experience working with younger children, thanks to his little brother and his teammates. Of course, it must have been a weird feeling for the teenager to look around a baseball field and only see players younger than him.
"I'm always the youngest on the field and there, I actually felt like an adult," Urias said.
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.