MACON, Ga. -- Former Braves catcher David Ross couldn't hold back his excitement as he arrived at Tom Fontaine Park on Wednesday.As Ross stepped onto the Little League field, the freshly cut grass and the sounds of joyful children brought him back to his childhood. It reminded him of the
MACON, Ga. -- Former Braves catcher David Ross couldn't hold back his excitement as he arrived at Tom Fontaine Park on Wednesday.
As Ross stepped onto the Little League field, the freshly cut grass and the sounds of joyful children brought him back to his childhood. It reminded him of the excitement of youth baseball, as he presented a newly refurbished facility for local youth, along with Scotts Lawn Care, MLB and the Braves.
"It brings back all kinds of memories," Ross said. "Everything from the little stands to the concessions where you could get a Blow Pop, popcorn or hot dog. All of that brings back some cool memories."
Hours after broadcasting the series opener between the Yankees and Red Sox in Boston, Ross joined several former Braves players and supporters in dedicating the refurbished field back to the community.
As a Scotts ambassador, Ross played a key role in selecting the field for a renovation. Out of 350 applications from 315 cities, Scotts chose Macon as one its four destinations for a field dedication.
The refurbished fields include a new infield, new grass, a revamped concession stand and updated dugouts, among other enhancements. The Braves and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation will refurbish and donate two more adjoining fields in the area.
"You are kind of getting three-for-one, as there is a Ripken Sr. Foundation field being built behind here, and the Braves are refurbishing the adjacent field." Ross said. "It is about the youth that will be able to get out here and play on this field. They will be able to grow and learn the game of baseball, develop and love their team."
The ability to further develop baseball in Macon is a big initiative for Macon R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) president Freddie Stewart Jr. He has worked for years to help spread the game across the community, and he was overjoyed to have a new facility for the 255 kids in the program.
"This is an overwhelming event for our kids, as we have struggled for so many years just to keep a field open and playable," Stewart said. "To get this boost for our kids and the community, it is awesome to witness this event. We are going to cherish it for several years."
Stewart said the facility hasn't had significant upgrades since its opening in 1955. He was thankful for the support of the Braves, MLB and Mercer University baseball, and he hopes that the new renovations can help boost more interest in baseball as it thrives in the community.
"Once the phases are completed, I think we will have a unique program under one roof," Stewart said. "It is going to be great and increase the enrollment in our program by at least 35-40 percent."
The field dedication is one of many ceremonies that Scotts plans on doing this year. The company started the initiative in 2016 under the MLB "Play Ball" campaign.
According to Scotts general manager of business Josh Peoples, the company enjoys giving back and working with organizations like the United Way of Central Georgia to provide for communities.
"What really made this stand out for us is that it is a community that is really involved and engaged in what they do," Peoples said. "They love the game of baseball, and I think anytime we can make a difference, like we did in this facility, it is rewarding."
Ross will continue to keep in touch with the program as it builds. He knows what baseball has done for him, and he wants to make sure to give back in any way possible.
"The people that raised me are from the southeast, and I feel at home when I am down here," Ross said. "I love being here, and it is nice to be back and help out."
Jaylon Thompson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Atlanta.