The Astros organization continued its Community Leaders Program initiative on Saturday morning, opening two newly renovated youth baseball fields at Hidalgo Park in East Houston.
"These fields have been completely redone," Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said. "New sod has been brought in, along with irrigation that has been put into place. The whole field has been cleaned up. And with the design and specs that have been put into place, it is one of the top fields in Houston.
"Now at Hidalgo Park, you now have two playing surfaces that are the quality of any in the city."
Friedkin Companies, in partnership with the Astros Foundation, joined the Community Leaders Program to sponsor the new ball fields. The Astros Community Leaders Program is investing $18 million in city-owned public youth baseball and softball fields in disadvantaged areas of Houston over the course of five years.
"This partnership between the Friedkin group and the Astros Foundation, along with the Community Leaders Program, puts money back into publicly owned city fields so that Little Leagues like the one here in Magnolia have an awesome environment for these kids to play in," Ryan said. "We couldn't do it without the help of our corporate sponsors, and it is awesome to see the Community Leaders Program continuing to grow."
Astros manager Bo Porter and catcher Carlos Corporan came out to support the event, along with Ryan and Astros legend Jose Cruz. Porter talked about the influence Little League baseball had on his life.
"It was the foundation that helped me develop as a person and allowed me to understand what hard work, dedication and team sports were all about," Porter said. "Those are some of the life skills that these kids will learn each and every day they come out here."
Astros owner Jim Crane jump-started the program in 2012, and with the addition of the two newly renovated fields at Hidalgo Park, seven parks and 18 fields have been renovated through the Community Leaders Program.
"I am honored to be a part of this organization," Porter said. "Part of our responsibility as a professional baseball team in this community is to give back to this community. Jim Crane has made that a focal point, and this here is evident today of the commitment the organization has made to the community."
The Friedkin group is one of nine sponsors currently in the Community Leaders Program that has helped renovate ballparks across the greater Houston area. The program is designed to have up to 12 sponsors over the course of a five-year period.
"There is nothing better than being on a baseball field on a Saturday morning with all of these young kids and seeing how excited they are about the game of baseball," Friedkin president Marc Watts said. "As a company, this program is something we are proud to be a part of. These groups of companies are building baseball and Houston communities for the future, and when you see the impact these fields will have on the community -- that is really special."
Construction at additional fields continues, as new parks are still yet to come. All of these revitalized youth baseball and softball fields serve thousands of at-risk youth throughout Houston.
Ryan Cantrell is a contributor to MLB.com.