WASHINGTON -- A major component of every Legacy Project initiative during All-Star Week includes reintroducing youth baseball fields that have been renovated, restored and spruced up for area kids to play on. Not only now, but for generations to come.Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals unveiled one of those
WASHINGTON -- A major component of every Legacy Project initiative during All-Star Week includes reintroducing youth baseball fields that have been renovated, restored and spruced up for area kids to play on. Not only now, but for generations to come.
Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals unveiled one of those fields on Saturday morning at Walker Mill Regional Park -- home of a brand new, refurbished "Nationals All-Star Field" in Maryland's Prince George's County.
Players from Prince George's County Parks and Recreation Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), as well as several dignitaries from both the county and Major League Baseball were on hand for the grand opening.
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"This is important, and not just about sports," said Rushern L. Baker III, county executive for Prince George's County. "I know that's why the Nationals and Major League Baseball are investing in this field. It's not just about pitching and hitting. It's really about teaching the skills of life -- teamwork, how to win graciously and how to lose graciously. Life skills that will carry you throughout."
The field was fully renovated with improvements including field grading, upgrades to sod and ballfield mix, plus the additions of a brand new irrigation system, scoreboard, covered dugouts, bleachers with shade structures, batting cage and a storage shed.
Thirteen-year-old William "Willie" Palmer, a player from the Cheverly Boys & Girls Club, spoke eloquently about the great privilege he and his peers have in being able to play on a new, smooth field.
"I was here when my oldest brother played a high school game -- and now that I look at the field and remember it, it's very different," he said. "I feel like having this field will make it easier for kids to fall in love with the game.
"When you [play] on the backfield, it might give you a chance to make mistakes -- because of a hole or a rock. There's always [a chance] of some kids getting hurt. A field likes this makes me feel happy and energetic. I know this field will have no major holes or anything that can mess you up."
Former Nationals player Kevin Frandsen attended Saturday's dedication and echoed Palmer's sentiment about the advantages of playing on a brand new surface.
"When you're growing up, one of the toughest things to deal with is a ball off your chest, off your head," Frandsen said. "You come here and actually just play the game without worrying about anything. You look around and you say, 'Where was this when I was younger?' This is beautiful."
Upgrades to the field will allow for hosting a variety of youth-focused activities, including Play Ball events like the Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit & Run and Jr. Home Run Derby, as well as youth showcase and league games, and more. A secondary field was reconfigured and improved to allow different age groups to utilize the fields and expand youth baseball play overall.
The greater Washington, D.C., area is the most recent to benefit from the All-Star Legacy initiative, which began in 1997 and has since raised more than $85 million in charitable contributions. MLB and the Nationals have donated approximately $5 million through MLB Charities and the Nationals Dream Foundation -- which also supports the national partners of MLB, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer, among others.
Because of the field renovations at Walker Mill Regional Park, the Prince George's County Parks and Recreation Foundation and Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation will be able to promote baseball and healthy, active lifestyles to more than 3,000 kids.
"Major League Baseball made a long-term investment in our region," said Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, principal owner of the Nationals and chair of the Nationals Dream Foundation. "They told us what they want to accomplish [by] creating these legacy projects, and they've been amazing partners along the way. I hope you kids enjoy this field, because it was made with love."
While watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX on Tuesday, fans can submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote.
The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.
For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.