Marlins, MLB announce youth academy

Marlins, MLB join for youth academy

HIALEAH, Fla. -- Under a tent, and across from acres of undeveloped land, Major League Baseball and the Marlins joined together with the city of Hialeah on Wednesday afternoon to announce that this will be the grounds of an MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy in South Florida.

The state-of-the-art facility in Miami-Dade County, located northwest of downtown Miami, is the latest MLB initiative showing its commitment to the area.

The Academy, which will be run similar to the one in Compton, Calif., is projected to begin construction in 2010. If all goes as planned, it would open in 2012.

"This is an affirmation of our commitment to South Florida," MLB President and COO Bob DuPuy said. "This is a Major League city. It should be a Major League city. This is going to be a Major League and state-of-the-art facility as well."

The news conference was held in the area where the expansive academy will eventually be built. Before ground is broken, however, MLB is awaiting the final vote on a new stadium for the Marlins.

The Marlins are in the final stages of what the franchise hopes puts an end to more than a decade quest for their own ballpark. On Jan. 22, commissioners from the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County are expected to vote on five final documents that would finalize the Marlins' stadium.

"Obviously, the academy announcement, it all came now because we feel we are in a position to very, very shortly deliver to 13 county commissioners and five city of Miami commissioners completed documents for their approval," Marlins president David Samson said. "There is no deal, obviously, without their votes."

When the Marlins' ballpark becomes official, so will the facility for the academy in Hialeah.

The academy will be the second one backed by Major League Baseball, and it will be operated similarly to the inaugural one in Compton, Calif.

The academy will be located at the intersection of NW 36th Ave. and West 87th Street in Hialeah. It will provide free baseball and softball instruction to South Florida youth, ages 7-18.

"We will be able to guarantee for the future, a facility that has the name of Major League Baseball on it," Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina said. "Let me make it very clear that this is not just a facility for the youth of this community, of Hialeah or Hialeah Gardens. This is a facility for the entire Miami-Dade County and South Florida. That is our commitment. Our commitment is to serve the entire county."

Open year-round, the academy will have top-flight facilities, complete with scoreboards and permanent seating for 700 fans, plus additional space for 1,800 more. It will have dugouts and lights, two auxiliary fields, four softball/Little League ball fields and batting cages, and a 1,200-square foot office space and other facilities.

"When Commissioner [Bud] Selig decided we were going to do our urban initiative, we were going to do as many underserved communities as we could -- to basically advance the visibility of our sport," MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon said. "[We wanted] to provide opportunities to young people who may not have been provided as much as necessary. Plus, we're in baseball, and we'd like to develop baseball players, too. And we want to develop better human beings. We're making more productive citizens. What better hotbed for baseball than South Florida?"

In addition to the numerous baseball and softball tournaments that will be held there, the academy also will be a training ground for umpires and all aspects of the game. Clinics and seminars on everything ranging from playing to athletic field management, scouting and player development will be conducted in Hialeah.

"I hope very soon we will see the announcement of the final documents being signed and approved by the two commissions, and we can break ground and move forward in getting Miami and this area a state-of-the-art ballpark as well," DuPuy said.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.