Following the inspirational story of Jackie Robinson West winning the U.S. Little League championship, the city of Chicago — aided by Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs contributions — is putting $6.5 million in youth baseball and softball fields.
We covered the topic of baseball in Chicago a couple times this summer, noting the emphasis the city and local institutions like University of Illinois-Chicago and the White Sox were placing on the sport being a leader in keeping inner-city youth on the straight and narrow. Yesterday, the city announced $6.5 million new investments for youth baseball and softball in Chicago parks. Palmer Park, Tuley Park and Jackie Robinson Park Southwest Elementary will receive new turf fields, concessions, restrooms and other renovations to support the programs and leagues playing at these locations. Youth programming also will be expanded citywide to provide children with more opportunities to participate in organized baseball and softball.
In addition to a $6 million Park District capital investment, the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs will provide $250,000 each — a total of half a million dollars — to allow for an expansion of baseball and softball programming.
“Over the last eighteen months, we’ve made capital investments in parks across the City for youth baseball and softball, and this announcement today underscores our commitment to ensuring every child in every neighborhood can access positive opportunities that will teach them skills that will serve them well both on the field and in the classroom,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Though professional baseball fan allegiances may at times split the City in half, I commend the White Sox and the Cubs for coming together with the City to support all of Chicago’s children, no matter the neighborhood.”
Currently, more than 50,000 youth in Chicago participate in baseball and softball annually at more than 80 Chicago Park District locations. The addition of new turf fields at Palmer, Tuley and Jackie Robinson parks will ensure that games can be played more consistently after rain and over longer seasons. The $6 million total investment at these three parks will include a new artificial turf field at each of the three south side parks, the addition of restrooms and concessions at the existing stadiums at Jackie Robinson Park and Tuley Park and a new stadium at Palmer Park.
“Baseball and softball help youth learn fundamental skills, leadership and sportsmanship while staying active, safe and engaged in our parks,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent Michael Kelly. “It is with great enthusiasm that we provide additional opportunities for youth to participate in these sports.”
The $500,000 investment by the White Sox and the Cubs will allow for an expansion of baseball and softball programming. This five-year commitment will establish an annual city-wide baseball and softball tournament, and fall ball will be introduced in 2015 to allow athletes to continue playing ball beyond the summer months.
“As a Major League Baseball team, we absolutely support any initiative that gets more kids playing baseball,” said Christine O’Reilly, White Sox senior director of community relations. “We are very proud of our existing youth baseball programs like Inner City Youth Baseball, Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI), our turf field at the Kroc Center in Pullman and our Amateur City Elite (ACE) program that has helped 84 kids go to college to play baseball. It is an honor to be asked by Mayor Emanuel to work with the Park District on this latest initiative, but even beyond providing more baseball opportunities for kids, we are excited about what first-class facilities and programs like this can mean for communities and the people who live in them.”
“Watching the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars succeed in the Little League World Series was a galvanizing moment for youth baseball in the City of Chicago,” said Connie Falcone, Cubs Charities vice president of development. “The Chicago Cubs commend Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Park District and our elected officials for building on that enthusiasm and providing the opportunity for youth to develop and pursue their love of baseball. This contribution, along with our recently announced Diamond Project grants, continues the team’s efforts to provide clean, safe and accessible baseball fields throughout the City of Chicago.”
Photo: Curtis Granderson Stadium at the University of Illinois-Chicago, a facility designed to support youth baseball and events as well as the Flames baseball program.
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