'Pride and joy' in local youth field makeover

MLB, Scotts team up for renovation at Baran Park on Milwaukee's south side

September 21st, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- As 13-year-old Lisette Contreras fired a no-doubt-about-it strike to former Brewers right-hander Bill Castro, her coach, Guerrero Duran, couldn't help but smile as he looked on from beyond the first-base line at Baran Park on Milwaukee's south side.

Certainly, he was proud of Lisette, but the longtime Little League coach was also beaming because that pitch marked the opening of an entirely new era for Baran and the Felix Mantilla Little League program that calls the facility home.

"This is nice, it's beautiful. I love it," Duran said. "The kids are going to love it. It's just night and day. Our kids, they deserve this."

Baran was one of five parks across the country selected to an overhaul under a partnership between Major League Baseball and Scotts Lawn Care. With help from the Brewers Community Foundation, Journey House was selected from more than 350 organizations seeking refurbishments for their fields.

The proposals were chosen by a panel made up of two-time World Series champion and current ESPN analyst David Ross; Olympic gold medalist and MLB youth softball ambassador Jennie Finch; World Series champion and MLB Network analyst Cliff Floyd; MLB senior vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng; Scotts vice president and general manager Josh Peoples; and additional executives from MLB and Scotts.

"We live in a world of technology," Scotts brand director Amanda Cicola said. "A lot of times, play isn't what it used to be. Kids play with a screen instead of engaging with things outdoors or on the grass. Being able to create a beautiful space they can enjoy and appreciate is incredibly important to our company."

The Brewers have a long history with Journey House, an organization that empowers families on Milwaukee's south side to move out of poverty through youth development and family engagement, as well as the Felix Mantilla Little League, which was founded by former Milwaukee Braves standout Felix Mantilla.

The team has sponsored the program's uniforms for years and also provided the scoreboard at Baran Park while Brewers players have made appearances and taken part in camps over the years.

"We've been together for a long time," Brewers Community Foundation executive director Cecelia Gore said. "Journey House is just amazing. They've taken the baseball program, linked it to academics and made it grow. They've been a great partner and it's a pride and joy to see this field."

The field renovation is just the first step of a $3.3 million project that will completely transform the park. When finished, there will be three artificial turf Little League fields along with a regulation high school diamond and a renovated T-ball diamond, field lighting, dugouts, enhanced draining and security fencing.

Contreras, a high school freshman, is excited for what the new field represents.

"It's a new beginning," she said. "And it's a future for little who kids who want to play the game."