HOUSTON, TX — Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane and Houston Mayor Annise Parker led a groundbreaking ceremony for the Astros Community Leaders program this morning at Diez Park in Houston. Through its corporate partnerships, the Community Leaders program will ultimately contribute $18.0 million to the City of Houston over the next five years for youth baseball and softball programs at no cost to the city’s taxpayers.
The ceremony was hosted by Houston Parks and Recreation Director Joe Turner, who has worked with Crane and Mayor Parker to help establish the Community Leaders program. Astros President and CEO George Postolos and popular former Astros players Jose Cruz and Jimmy Wynn also took part in the ceremony along with city council members James Rodriguez, Wanda Adams and Ed Gonzalez. Jose Sanchez, who heads the East End Little League program which plays at Diez Park, spoke passionately about what the Community Leaders program will mean to his community. Several children from the East End Little League were at the ceremony along with Darrell Miller, Major League Baseball’s Vice President of Youth and Facility Development.
Construction on three parks (Diez Park, Moody Park and Sunnyside) will begin on Thursday.
The Community Leaders program is a collaboration between the Houston Astros, the City of Houston and Houston based corporations that will build or refurbish youth baseball and softball fields in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the city and provide dollars for equipment, uniforms and more. Each of the seven corporations that are currently a part of the program had representatives at this morning’s ceremony: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (Ron Taylor, Vice President), Calpine Corporation (CEO Jack Fusco), Champion Energy Services (CEO Scott Fordham), Halliburton (Galen Cobb, Vice President), Nabors Industries (Laura Doerre, Vice President), National Oilwell Varco (CEO Pete Miller) and Schlumberger (Communications Director Stephen Harris). The Astros plan to eventually have 12 corporate partners in the Community Leaders program.
Crane personally developed the Community Leaders program, which offers corporations the opportunity to partner with the Astros and the Astros In Action Foundation to become part of a team that will improve several city neighborhoods through the game of baseball.
“Baseball was very important to my own development,” said Crane. “Playing baseball made me a lot more confident and comfortable in my ability to achieve things. I’d like to be able to help more kids get the opportunity I had through baseball.”
“The Astros’ Community Leaders program is providing a tremendous service to Houston’s young people at no cost to our taxpayers,” said Mayor Parker. “As a former softball player, I know this program will be successful in encouraging young people to play, and I applaud the Astros and the corporations participating in this program for their community spirit and generosity. We are proud to partner with the Houston Astros to help some of our parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has also praised the Community Leaders program.
“I applaud Jim Crane and the Astros for partnering with so many fine local organizations and impacting the future of youth baseball in Houston,” Selig said. “The Astros’ efforts will help us reach our next generation of leaders, players, coaches and fans.
“Major League Baseball is a social institution, and I am delighted that the Astros’ Community Leaders program will help us meet our important social responsibilities in the communities of Houston.”
COMMUNITY LEADERS PROGRAM INFORMATION
Community Leaders is the Astros’ $18 million, youth baseball charity program founded on the belief that baseball builds character and helps children grow into healthy, happy, high achieving adults who believe in their ability to realize their dreams. This charity program is dedicated to revitalizing youth baseball in Houston’s inner city. The team, along with major Houston based companies and the City of Houston, will refurbish baseball and softball fields in Houston city parks. Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane is the plan’s architect. Working with Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston Parks and Recreation department, the Astros will identify key corporate partners and then target parks and ball fields in need of transformation.
The Community Leaders program will ultimately partner with 12 leading, Houston based corporations to improve youth baseball in the city’s impoverished neighborhoods. Each corporation is making a five-year commitment, which will ultimately combine on an $18 million fund for the renovation, construction and maintenance of baseball and softball fields to support youth baseball in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Field improvements will vary according to their individual needs but will include:
• grading and leveling of the playing surface
• installing new sod and infield clay
• installing an irrigation system
• providing covered player dugouts
• constructing outfield fences with safety caps
• installing electronic scoreboards
• providing spectator bleachers
• improving and maintaining facility landscaping around the fields
The Community Leaders goals are:
1. Provide opportunities for children in lower income areas to play baseball and softball at safe, top-notch and well-maintained facilities.
2. Instill life-long lessons of teamwork, diligence, perseverance and self-confidence that develop by playing the game.
3. Enhance relationships with other inner city youth baseball and softball programs (i.e. RBI, Boys and Girls Clubs) by integrating them into the Community Leaders program.
4. Create a sustainable program that benefits area children while providing partner companies and their employees a way to engage in personal, meaningful volunteer opportunities.