ARLINGTON -- On Tuesday afternoon, the Rangers dedicated Oates Field presented by Papa Johns at the site of the team's new MLB Youth Academy in West Dallas, honoring the most beloved manager in franchise history, Johnny Oates, who died of a brain tumor in 2004 at age 58.Oates guided the
ARLINGTON -- On Tuesday afternoon, the Rangers dedicated Oates Field presented by Papa Johns at the site of the team's new MLB Youth Academy in West Dallas, honoring the most beloved manager in franchise history, Johnny Oates, who died of a brain tumor in 2004 at age 58.
Oates guided the Rangers to their first three playoff appearances, in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
Oates Field will be the crown jewel of the new academy, which is under construction and scheduled to open in spring 2017. The state-of the-art turf field will feature seating for around 750 people, and replaces Johnny Oates Youth Ballpark, which Oates helped build in 1999.
The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Dallas-based Mercy St. are combining to help build the facility.
"I think he would be thrilled, because he loved the game of baseball so much and he loved children so much. To see the opportunity that's going to happen here is just incredible," said Oates' wife, Gloria, who was joined by their daughter, Jenny, and her children. "I was with him when they dedicated the original Johnny Oates field, so these plans are just above and beyond anything you can imagine. He would be very overwhelmed and proud."
Two of Oates' former players, Ivan Rodriguez and Will Clark, attended the dedication ceremony and spoke with area Little Leaguers.
"When I first heard about it and got a chance to see the plans, you just shake your head. It's going to be first-class all the way around," Clark said "You definitely want to invest in youth. I know Major League Baseball itself wants to invest in the next generation coming up. A baseball player like myself, or [Rodriguez], the one thing we do when we're done with the sport is pass it on."
In addition to Oates Field, the complex will include four other fields and a main building. One of the fields will be named after Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, a native of North Texas, who donated to the project. The building will house batting and pitching cages, classrooms, a weight room and a nutrition room.
Rangers standouts Adrian Beltre, Ian Desmond, Prince Fielder and Cole Hamels also donated to the project, which will serve more than 8,000 kids in West Dallas and throughout North Texas.
"It's very important, especially for tough areas," Rodriguez said. "And again, this is to try and keep the kids in sports. I always said, keeping the kids in sports is the best thing we can do for our kids, and that's what we're doing with this kind of facility and program in this area."
"I played for Johnny for four years, so it's a cause near and dear to my heart," Clark said. "He treated me and my teammates like the men that we were, but at the same time, he had a deep compassion for the youth."
Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas.