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Urban Youth Academy near completion in New Orleans

Urban Youth Academy near completion in New Orleans
The final steps are upon us. Officials from Major League Baseball will conduct a walk through of the Urban Youth Academy facility in New Orleans on Monday, one of the final items on the checklist before the project is done with construction and ready to serve the youth of America.

Darrell Miller, MLB's vice president of youth and facility development, said he's looking forward to the final product at Wesley Barrow Stadium, and is pointing to a grand opening later this summer. There are still some final details to iron out, he said, but New Orleans will soon have its academy.

"I'd imagine that it's almost like giving birth," said Miller of the long process between development and completion. "You're scared, you're apprehensive, and you're thrilled at the same time. At some points, it feels like it's going to take forever, and then all of a sudden, it's just there. Here's your baby."

The New Orleans academy will have three fields, one for softball and T-ball, in addition to the full-service stadium field. And perhaps most importantly, it will lie close to the urban locations of the University of New Orleans and Southern University at New Orleans, giving the academy potential volunteers and a latent synergy with the baseball programs at those schools.

Miller has dubbed the UYA mission as the "next level" of RBI -- which stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities -- because it entails a greater time commitment and a larger emphasis on education. Free baseball instruction is one thing, he said, but the emphasis on going to school is another.

Right now, the league is targeting either late August or early September to open the facility in time for the coming school year. The stadium field is already laid out -- and so is the concourse -- but the seats still have to go in, and finishing touches have to be made to the girls' softball field.

The New Orleans academy has sister facilities in Houston and Compton, Calif., and MLB has an academy in Puerto Rico that doubles as a high school. That last facility -- the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy -- yielded Carlos Correa, the first pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

The Compton academy got some good news on Tuesday, when it was announced that alumnus Anthony Gose had been called up to the big leagues for the first time. Gose, an outfielder in Toronto's system, starred in the Futures Game, but made his first strides at the Urban Youth Academy.

"That's just such great news," said Miller of Gose's promotion. "He started at the academy as a freshman in high school, and he played there and he worked there every day."

Miller hasn't been to Wesley Barrow Stadium in nearly three weeks, but he said that he made bi-weekly visits to the facility for much of the summer. Now, he wants to see the finishing touches -- flooring and air conditioning, batting cages and pitching machines -- before the facility opens.

Major League Baseball will focus on advancing construction for a facility in Philadelphia once the New Orleans academy is completed, and there's another future branch planned to open in South Florida. Miller said that he's thrilled to be working with Frank Robinson, who was recently named MLB's executive vice president of baseball development and will have a hand in all future academy plans.

"The great thing is that we have a Hall of Famer like Frank Robinson heading our team. Who could be better to help us bring our message to people?" said Miller of Robinson, the only player to be named Most Valuable Player in both leagues and MLB's first African-American manager. "It's just great to see this dream of Commissioner Selig's flourish and rise to the next level."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for