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Rangers Youth Academy benefiting thousands

At ribbon-cutting ceremony, Andrus calls 17-acre complex 'breathtaking'
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

DALLAS -- They did not play baseball or softball in West Dallas on Tuesday because of the heavy rains. But they will be playing there for many years to come because of the Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex.

The Academy has gradually come to life over the past two years and is now in full operation after the official ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

DALLAS -- They did not play baseball or softball in West Dallas on Tuesday because of the heavy rains. But they will be playing there for many years to come because of the Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex.

The Academy has gradually come to life over the past two years and is now in full operation after the official ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

The complex is spectacular.

"Amazing," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "Breathtaking. I have walked around already and it's unreal. I think all the kids will be spoiled."

Andrus was among the many Rangers players and club officials in attendance, along with sponsors and Dallas community leaders.

"What a fabulous facility," said Neil Leibman, chairman of the Rangers' ownership committee. "This is truly a landmark day for baseball and softball in North Texas."

The Rangers started planning the Academy since the current ownership group under Ray Davis and Bob Simpson took over in 2010. Over 2,800 boys and girls have already used it as the facilities were built to final completion Tuesday.

Karin Morris, the executive director of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, was the driving force behind the complex.

"It's unbelievable," Morris said. "To drive up and see it, it's amazing. We are very proud of it."

This is the eighth Urban Youth Academy opened by Major League Baseball, joining others in Compton, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Others in development are in New York City, Kansas City and San Francisco.

"This is awesome," said Tony Reagins, MLB's senior vice president for youth programs. "This is a long time in the making, and to see it come to life is cool. All the hard work a lot of people behind the scenes put forth makes a day like today really special."

The 17-acre complex includes two professional-sized fields and three youth fields. There is also the indoor Adrian Beltre Field in the Globe Life Training Center. The indoor facility includes four classrooms, locker rooms, offices, training room, nutrition area, weight room and conference room.

One of the big fields is named after former Rangers manager Johnny Oates. Two of the youth fields are named for Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw -- a Dallas native -- and former Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. They were major donors to the project, along with Beltre and former or current Rangers Martin Perez, Cole Hamels, Michael Young, Ian Desmond, Prince Fielder, Jeremy Jeffress and Tyson Ross.

"We are very excited about the way it turned out and the way we know the community is going to embrace it," Morris said. "The kids who are here today are so excited, they can't wait to get in here and start getting to work. We are just ready to transform the community and change lives."

Baseball and softball instruction begins five days a week starting Jan. 8, and games will begin Feb. 9. Pinkston and Sunset High School will play their games there and RBI programs will play there this summer.

"The impact is wide-ranging, because not only does it impact the kids on a daily basis, but in terms of the surrounding community and a safe place for kids to come and play," Reagins said. "The entire community benefits from a project like this."

The Academy will also provide children with access to tutoring programs, college prep classes, college and career fairs, financial literacy and internship programs, courses teaching math through the use of baseball statistics and MLB industry alternative career workshops.

"It checks a lot of boxes for us," Reagins said. "No. 1, we build these in communities that are underserved for the most part. So to be able to provide a program that is cost-free or little or no cost to the kids is extremely important, so we have started to take away some of the barriers in terms of you can't afford to play. Our goal is to continue to build more of these across the country in Major League cities that have an interest in building one, and they can see the benefits of the one here in Dallas."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.

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