Ripken teams up with college to build new facility

One-of-a-kind park at Springfield (Mass.) will incorporate adaptive, traditional baseball fields

Ripken teams up with college to build new facility

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation will partner with Springfield (Mass.) College to design and build a one-of-a-kind intercollegiate and adaptive baseball park on that campus, officials announced on Monday.

Ripken, along with Springfield College president Mary-Beth Cooper and foundation board chair Mark Butler, signed the partnership agreement during the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation board meeting at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Tony Reagins, Major League Baseball's senior vice president of youth programs, was also in attendance.

"We at Springfield College feel privileged to work with Cal Ripken and the foundation to build a field that will serve our intercollegiate baseball team, as well as the greater Springfield community, including those with disabilities," Cooper said. "When we were looking for quality national strategic partners for this important initiative, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation immediately rose to the top of our list. This partnership is an organic one for Springfield College because of the similar values and mission."

The project fits with the mission of Springfield College -- to educate students in spirit, mind and body to serve others. It also aligns with the mission of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation -- to build character and teach critical life lessons to at-risk young people through sports-themed programs.

"As a foundation, we are always striving to create opportunities for youth to excel not just on the playing field, but in the game of life," Butler said. "We are proud to work together with Springfield College to develop a multifunctional field that will not only benefit its student athletes, but also provide a safe place for local community members of all abilities to play, learn and grow."

"When we started the Foundation [in 2001], we wanted to help kids and pay tribute to our dad," Ripken said. "However, we never imagined we would be able to do so much for kids across the country. We now have a model that we are bringing to many other communities."

The first of its kind, this project will incorporate a new adaptive field within a new traditional field when the existing Springfield College team baseball diamond is replaced. Called "The Springfield Model," the new facilities will include an artificial turf field, bullpens and batting cages; installation of a new grandstand and press box; and a new scoreboard, sound system and sports lighting system that will serve both the adaptive and the Springfield College team fields. Renovations will also encompass broadcasting capabilities and landscaping.

"In addition to providing a first-class facility for our student athletes, the multipurpose, synthetic turf field and facility will be a lab for our students and faculty in rehabilitation studies," said Craig Poisson, Springfield College's director of athletics. "It will also be a venue at which our sport management students can earn valuable experience and leadership skills running community events and tournaments. It's exciting to have a project that will benefit diverse populations while promoting America's favorite pastime."

Youth athletes from the Miracle League, Special Olympics and local baseball programs are expected to benefit from the renovation of the college's Berry-Allen Field, which was opened in 1939 and has only seen regular maintenance in the intervening years. The field is named for two longtime Springfield College baseball coaches. Elmer Berry was a prominent physical education teacher at Springfield College who served as head coach from 1915-26, and Archie Allen was head coach for 31 seasons from 1948-78 and coached the U.S. Pan American Games team to a silver medal in 1963.

The college has received financial commitments to help support the project. However, it will seek additional assistance from alumni and friends of the college. Groundbreaking is scheduled for April 24, with an anticipated completion date of Sept. 1.

Springfield College, with an enrollment of 4,800 students, is regularly ranked in the top tier in its category in U.S. News & World Report. In the 2017 edition of "America's Best Colleges," it is ranked 27th -- up 40 spots since '11 -- in the first tier of "Best Regional Universities -- North." It is the sixth consecutive year the college has risen in the rankings.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.