COMPTON, Calif. -- Major League Baseball's Play Ball and Chevy Youth Baseball joined together at Major League Baseball's Compton Youth Academy to dedicate its newly renovated youth field and to register nearly 150 kids ages 5-12 to participate in the Play Ball initiative.The Compton Youth Academy was opened in 2006,
COMPTON, Calif. -- Major League Baseball's Play Ball and Chevy Youth Baseball joined together at Major League Baseball's Compton Youth Academy to dedicate its newly renovated youth field and to register nearly 150 kids ages 5-12 to participate in the Play Ball initiative.
The Compton Youth Academy was opened in 2006, and Chevrolet through its Chevy Youth Baseball program has been a sponsor since the academy was established. Saturday's event recognized Chevrolet's latest donation of $158,040, which allowed the academy to renovate one of its youth fields with a new synthetic turf covering both the infield and outfield, plus the installation of lights later this summer.
The Chevrolet Youth Sports programs have reached 12.4 million youths since it began in 2006. In '17 alone, more than 748,000 kids participated on Chevrolet Youth Baseball and Softball teams across the nation.
Participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan, the 44th District's representative and second baseman for the Democratic Congressional Baseball Team.
"I played baseball as a kid myself and had to petition the principal to allow me to play on my high school's boys team," Barragan said. "If I can inspire our young boys and girls to be active and to play ball, that's what I'll do. I love the game."
As Erika Wirkkala, Chevrolet's representative at the event, said, "Chevrolet is really interested and dedicated to empowering today's youth through these programs and the MLB Youth Academy. We know that after-school programs such as these really help children learn life skills such as sportsmanship, perseverance and how to win and lose with dignity."
Chevrolet has been a longtime partner with MLB. Darrell Miller, vice president of youth and facility development, is impressed with Chevy's level of commitment to the Play Ball initiative.
"At the top level, Chevrolet wanted to do field renovations with MLB and now they are the national Play Ball sponsor because they really understand it," Miller said. "Baseball, apple pie, Chevrolet -- we've already said it. More importantly, they see the value of investing locally in all the academy. ... They've also done [a program] in Philadelphia and are doing more."
After the dedication, the kids were broken up into groups to participate in baseball-related activities at 10 different stations. Those activities include running, hitting, throwing, fielding, agility training and a short game. Each child who participated received a Play Ball T-shirt, Franklin plastic and foam bat-and-ball sets and lunch.
The smiles and excitement on the kids' faces alone was enough to make the event a success. The ongoing support that MLB and Chevrolet provide to the academy and the local community was summed up by 9-year-old Christopher Wilson, who said, "This program means a lot to me because I'm a big fan of baseball and I really like this academy."
While the obvious goal is to get more kids involved in baseball, Wirkkala said that it was much more than that for Chevrolet.
"Certainly, the hope is that we will encourage more boys and girls to get involved in the sport, but we also really want to stress that Chevrolet cares deeply about the communities that it serves, and this is just one manifestation of that commitment to our communities," Wirkkala said.
Miller said that Chevrolet's commitment to youth and inner-city baseball as a national sponsor of Play Ball has gotten more kids to play baseball who've never played the game before.
"That's really our sweet spot from the Commissioner's perspective," Miller said. "We want more kids to be playing the sport, letting people know that baseball is the greatest sport ever created, they're going to love it, and they're going to learn the lessons of life that sports can teach, but more specifically, baseball is the best mediator of those lessons."
Glenn Rabney is a contributor for MLB.com.