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Ripken, Play Ball to build 10 youth ballparks

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- PLAY BALL Park had a special guest Tuesday morning who came to announce a big project that will impact thousands of kids around the country.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. stood at home plate on the kids' field, located just one block north of Nationals Park, to reveal that his foundation, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, is teaming up with Major League Baseball to build youth development parks in 10 MLB markets, thanks in part to a $5 million donation by Group One Thousand One.

WASHINGTON -- PLAY BALL Park had a special guest Tuesday morning who came to announce a big project that will impact thousands of kids around the country.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. stood at home plate on the kids' field, located just one block north of Nationals Park, to reveal that his foundation, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, is teaming up with Major League Baseball to build youth development parks in 10 MLB markets, thanks in part to a $5 million donation by Group One Thousand One.

"I always loved the influence that I had on kids and I always loved the game of baseball," Ripken Jr. said. "So if you combine those two loves, you want to expose and give kids an experience where they love baseball the same way I did."

Ripken Jr. was presented the $5 million check from Dan Towriss, president and CEO of Group One Thousand One, which will help his foundation continue to raise more money for the new fields expected to come to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Washington, D.C. area first, before expanding to Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, South Florida, Detroit, Seattle and the New York City area.

"It's an awesome feeling," Ripken Jr. said. "Gives us a chance to think bigger. It gives us a chance to strategize on how to leverage that money to raise other money for fields. … Dan's corporation looks at us and says, 'OK, I want to invest $5 million in what you do,' so we'd love to use this as a model and continue to give value to corporations around, and by doing that, we'll be able to strategize, think bigger and help more kids."

Major League Baseball will have a presence at each of the new synthetic-turf youth development parks, as each field will support an MLB Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, which is MLB's initiative to provide baseball and softball league-play for underserved youth.

"Growth," said Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development. "And that's one of our key initiatives to get more kids playing the game. To have access to fields and safe places to play. Hopefully that translates into more kids playing the game. So positive steps forward, and to have an announcement like this today, it means a lot."

Since 2009, the Ripken Foundation has completed 78 parks across the country in 22 states and Washington, D.C., impacting over 280,000 kids annually and counting. The foundation's Youth Development Park Initiative is to create clean, safe places for kids to play on multipurpose synthetic-surface fields that promote healthy living in an outdoor recreational facility.

"When you look at the work the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is doing around the country and to have an organization like Group One Thousand One and Dan Towriss and his group committing $5 million to parks around the country, that's exciting," Reagins said. "One of our biggest challenges, especially in inner cities, are places to play -- both baseball and softball. A commitment like this really speaks to, 'Hey, we're committed to providing these avenues for kids to play in safe environments.'

"The partnership with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation has been great for Major League Baseball and our RBI program."

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.