There's more to baseball than just bats, gloves and balls.
The game has always served as a symbol of hope and an opportunity to learn the values of being part of a team. One of the goals of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation (CRSF) is to ensure those opportunities are available to all kids, regardless of their means or where they live.
Now, the Ripken Foundation is working with Baltimore Gas and Electric for a new field in West Baltimore that will be home to the foundation's 59th Youth Development Park. The development will be home to James Mosher Baseball, which is the oldest continuously operating African-American youth baseball league in the country.
The baseball diamond will be named Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park, in honor of the former Baltimore Orioles first baseman, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. The new field will be located behind James Mosher Elementary in the Bridgeview/Greenlawn neighborhood.
The CRSF plans to break ground in the fall for Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park. The Foundation then hopes to add two additional parks for West Baltimore.
"It's our hometown, we wanted to have as much impact as we could in our home city," Steve Salem, president of the CRSF, said. "Then, in wake of the riots that occurred [last year,] we said we have to do something to help these kids. There is just such a desperate need for positive alternatives for these kids, and there's very little that exists there."
Another main goal of the Ripken Foundation's Youth Development Park is to provide local athletes with access to physical activity and mentors who provide necessary leadership through enrichment programs.
"BGE and Baltimore have been intertwined since the 1800s, and we are extremely proud to partner with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and provide this legacy gift to the city on our 200th anniversary," Calvin G. Butler Jr., chief executive officer for BGE, said. "BGE shares CRSF's mission to positively impact the community, especially the lives of young people. Investing in our youth in the communities that need it most will provide the foundation for growth and strengthen Baltimore."
The new, state-of-the-art Eddie Murray Field at BGE Park will feature a synthetic turf baseball diamond equipped with dugouts, a backstop and a digital scoreboard. The Baltimore City Public School system will maintain the field.
Bon Secours Hospital also provided financial assistance for the project. In addition to helping with the athletic facility, Bon Secours is helping with after-school programs for Baltimore City Public Schools. Other local firms providing assistance are Ollie's Bargain Outlet, The Cupid Foundation, Under Armour, the State of Maryland and Fields Inc.
Last year, the Ripken Foundation helped more than one million underserved children around the country through its Youth Development Park initiative and youth mentoring programs. In April, the CRSF opened an "Adaptive Field" for the Maryland School for the Blind to allow students to play Beep Baseball, a form of baseball developed for blind and visually impaired individuals that uses an oversized ball with sound.
"It's crucial that we provide our youth with opportunities to play, learn and grow in a positive environment," Hall of Famer and Ripken Foundation vice chairman Cal Ripken Jr. said. "Kids need caring adults who can teach them important life lessons like teamwork, respect and personal responsibility; they need guidance to be shown that there are other options besides negative influences. It's great to provide the kids in West Baltimore with a safe place to play and learn."
In addition to building baseball fields, the CRSF hosts food and fitness community days to promote healthy lifestyles for children. The foundation's work with James Mosher Baseball is another extension of its work in Baltimore and beyond.
"What a gem of an organization in this community," Salem said of Mosher Baseball. "These guys have been doing this for 60-plus years, generation after generation. It's not about baseball. It's about helping these kids. Baseball is the tool they use to prepare these kids for a future."
Issue 223: July 2016