Miami native teams up MLB, Scotts to renovate local Boys & Girls Club
By Mark Newman
KENDALL, Fla. -- The final 2017 All-Star Legacy project was dedicated on Tuesday morning with the renovation and expansion of the existing Teen Center at the Kendall Club of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade. For Alex Rodriguez -- who joined Commissioner Rob Manfred, Marlins All-Star Giancarlo Stanton and others at the ceremony -- it was where it all began.
"This is a dream, dream day for me, because the Boys & Girls Club really shifted, or perhaps saved, my life," Rodriguez said. "I grew up right there in the neighborhood of Kendall. When [MLB vice president] Pat Courtney and the Commissioner said they were going to raise this project, I was extremely excited.
"My mother worked two jobs -- she was a secretary in the morning and served tables at night at a place called Latin America down the street. I remember every day getting dropped off at the Boys & Girls Club, doing my homework for about two to three hours -- or at least pretending to do my homework -- and then I would go out and play baseball under the lights as a 9-year-old boy in front of hundreds of people."
On this day, 600 kids -- not that different from that aspiring shortstop of years ago -- surrounded the stars who descended upon this oasis on the morning of the 88th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. They enjoyed the installation of a new HVAC system, new flooring and lighting, as well as recoating the roofing on the exterior, upgrading furniture, enabling telephone/cable and Wi-Fi service, cosmetic upgrades (interior and exterior painting), an art component on the exterior, and creating an outdoor space adjacent to the Teen Center.
The renovation and expansion is expected to increase the number of children served daily from 20 to as many as 100 teens per day. Scotts, the official lawn care company of MLB, is also supporting a youth baseball field refurbishment with Rodriguez, who funded the majority of this field project. Rodriguez also funded refurbishments to two additional youth fields located near the Kendall Club of Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade. Together, the fields serve more than 900 youth from throughout the community.
Field work included conditioning, grading and leveling of the infield, and replacing the outfield sod. Improvements included enhancements to the dugouts, the installation of a scoreboard and windscreen. The Toro Company, a supporter of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, donated a Toro Sand Pro 3040 infield groomer, with attachments, to the field projects as well.
"When we come to a city like Miami, we ask the community to turn out, and Miami has really done that to support our events," Manfred said, noting the 20th anniversary of the All-Star Legacy project, which has left about $80 million in benefits to All-Star cities. "Not just the Home Run Derby and the game, but all sorts of community activities. We want to leave something other than great memories and great performances behind. It's really important for Baseball to recognize its obligation to leave behind some infrastructure, some projects like this one here at the Boys & Girls Club that will serve the community for many years to come."
Dignitaries also included Marlins president David Samson; Hall of Famer and Miami native Andre Dawson; former Marlins manager Jack McKeon, who is now special assistant to the owner; Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Alex Rodriguez-Roig, presdient of Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade; Josh Peoples, VP and general manager of The Scotts Company; Marlins play-by-play broadcaster Rich Waltz of FOX Sports Florida; and Billy The Marlin. Two-time Marlins All-Star Charles Johnson also was in attendance.
Rodriguez actually grew up in the Boys & Girls Club at 32nd and US1, not far from here. His own company expanded this club, with Pepi Gomez, his boyhood friend in the club, running the show for him in developing a place for future big leaguers. And it's not that much of a dream; nearly 25 kids from this B&GC area have become Major Leaguers, including Manny Machado.
"It's hard to believe we have had almost 25 Major League Baseball players come out of one unit," Rodriguez said. "Going back to Danny Tartabull, Alex Fernandez, Rafael Palmeiro -- the list goes on and on. Having our 88th All-Star Game here in Miami is pretty incredible.
"Commissioner Manfred two years ago started the Play Ball initiative, and we have seen those numbers go up. And they will keep going up. But once we have those kids, it is our responsibility to be honest with them and let them know not every kid is going to be a Major League Baseball player. You can wear a suit and tie, get an education and be pretty darn cool as well."
This event was combined with the day-long All-Star Smiles event at this Boys & Girls Club, an MLB-supported initiative co-founded by Stanton. About 100 children were provided with free preventative care and education and, if necessary, follow up dental treatment.
"It always does my heart good to think about what our players and former players do in the community for us," Manfred said. "They are an asset not only on the field, but in the community. I appreciate Andre Dawson being here. Giancarlo Stanton and Alex Rodriguez, two people involved in this project here. They are a credit to the game, not only because of what they did and are doing on the field, but also what they do in the community."
Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.