MLB honors Aaron with Legacy projects

August 1st, 2021

Major League Baseball and the Braves unveiled initiatives to enrich the greater Atlanta community this past week. Approximately $3 million donated by MLB’s Legacy Fund and the Atlanta Braves Foundation went toward projects that seek to increase access to youth baseball and softball programs.

The Legacy Initiative, traditionally presented during All-Star Week, gives back to MLB host cities through community enrichment projects and financial donations that will leave a lasting impact on the area. Since 1997, MLB and its clubs have donated approximately $95 million through the Legacy Initiative.

Gresham Park Baseball Complex
MLB and the Braves hosted over 100 community members and youth ballplayers to celebrate the $1.55 million renovation of the Gresham Park Baseball complex, including the newly renamed Hank Aaron and Bill Lucas Fields. Billye Aaron and Rubye Lucas were in attendance at the ribbon cutting ceremony that honored their late husbands.

Gresham Park has historically served as a hub for the development of Black baseball players in south Atlanta, and three current Braves Minor Leaguers -- Jalen Miller, Trey Harris and Michael Harris II -- have played on its fields.

“Since 1974 -- the year that Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record -- Gresham Park has been producing Major League players, producing leaders, producing amazing young people who have been striving, growing and changing this city,” said Danielle Bedasse, the Atlanta Braves Foundation's executive director. “The seed we are planting today, between the Hank Aaron Baseball Field and the Bill Lucas Softball Field, we will see a great future for Gresham Park and a great future for baseball here in Atlanta.

“There is nothing that we can add to Mr. Aaron’s achievements on the field -- that stands on its own. But we have a responsibility to carry on what he stood for off the field in his business and philanthropic efforts, his spirit of excellence and the way he treated people.”

Gresham Park is home to over 500 youth ballplayers, who will greatly benefit from a refurbished facility.

“There are people who say young African American boys and girls don’t play softball or baseball. Anyone who says that hasn’t spent any time at Gresham Park in Dekalb County, Ga.,” said Michael Thurmond, Dekalb County CEO. “Look here on Hank Aaron Field, and Bill Lucas Field, and you don’t just see a baseball field -- what you see is literally a field where dreams can come true.”

Anderson Boys & Girls Club
MLB and the Braves hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly renovated baseball and softball field at the James T. Anderson Boys & Girls Club located in Marietta, Ga. The Braves, partnered with Diamond Crystal Brands, also donated baseball and softball equipment to the club.

After the ribbon cutting, former Braves Greg McMichael, Gary Matthews and Terry Harper hosted a youth baseball clinic. The Braves MLB Legacy Field will also support the Braves’ RBI program, which operates recreational youth baseball and softball leagues in underserved areas.

“I would like to thank the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball for this innovative partnership that will enrich our community, foster diversity and increase access to youth baseball and softball programs,” said Lisa Cupid, Cobb County chairwoman. “Renovation of the field at James T. Anderson Boys & Girls Club will help our youth in Cobb enjoy the sport and develop Braves RBI baseball and softball programming. We are thankful to have the home of the Braves in Cobb [County] because the Braves and MLB have been great community partners.”

West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
The Braves hosted a volunteer project at West Atlanta Watershed Alliance to refurbish the former Atlanta Black Crackers practice field in Bush Mountain, one of the oldest Black communities in Atlanta dating back to the Civil War.

“Baseball greats such as Joe Greene and James ‘Red’ Moore practiced on this field when it was the sandlot of the Atlanta Black Crackers,” Bedasse said. “Their contributions to the sport, along with so many others, are felt every day in the Braves' organization as we work to increase diversity in baseball and create equal opportunities and access.”

Volunteers beautified the field and planted in the Bush Mountain Community Garden -- including a piece of baseball history, a seedling from the 100-year-old magnolia tree that grew in the outfield of the Minor League Atlanta Crackers and Negro American League Atlanta Black Crackers. A seedling from the same tree is also planted at Truist Park.

“There are years of history steeped in this soil at Bush Mountain, and today represents the first opportunity to reclaim this space for people to gather, reminisce and to commemorate the legacy and history of the Atlanta Black Crackers,” said Dr. Na’Taki Jelks, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance co-founder and board chair. “We don’t take lightly the time our volunteers are investing today, the investment the Braves, MLB, Delta Air Lines, and Hands On Atlanta are making here today and the work the City of Atlanta has made to make this space available to the public.”