CLEVELAND -- The Indians hosted the fourth annual Fields for the Future project at Thurgood Marshall Recreation on the city's east side on Thursday. And it's become a yearly tradition for Tribe backstop Yan Gomes.The Indians, in collaboration with the city of Cleveland and other corporate partners, helped renovate Johnny
CLEVELAND -- The Indians hosted the fourth annual Fields for the Future project at Thurgood Marshall Recreation on the city's east side on Thursday. And it's become a yearly tradition for Tribe backstop Yan Gomes.
The Indians, in collaboration with the city of Cleveland and other corporate partners, helped renovate Johnny Roscoe Field and Fred Drake Field. The renovation marked the fourth year the initiative has helped to restore local baseball fields.
In addition to the renovations, Shelly Co. donated new concrete slabs for the dugouts and Davey Tree Co. donated 10 trees, which will be planted throughout the surrounding park with the help of volunteers from Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Davey Tree.
BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence will also help to coordinate volunteers from the Cleveland Indians, McDonald Hopkins and Pepco to conduct several cleanup and painting products around the park. Additionally, with support from MLB's Tomorrow Fund, a field-maintenance clinic will also be provided to staff from the city to ensure the renovations will be maintained.
"Our Fields for the Future program is a key piece in our long-term goal to improve the quality of youth baseball in Cleveland," said Indians executive director of community impact Rebecca Kodysh. "We work with a number of called partners on the project, which would not happen without their support."
Gomes and his wife, Jenna, were on-site to help with the renovations, and they also made financial donations to support the project. Gomes also caught the first pitch prior to a youth game to break in the new field.
"We've been doing this for four years now, and it's really kind of like the name says -- it's building fields for our future, for our kids," said Gomes, who's been helping with the program since it started in 2015. "The kids are our future, and it's something my wife and I are really passionate for. We hope to keep building them."
The program will also serve as a precursor to Play Ball Weekend, which takes place May 26-27. Play Ball Weekend was launched by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball as the sport's largest effort to encourage widespread participation in formal and informal baseball activities.
The Fields for the Future program began in 2015 at Luke Easter Park on Cleveland's east side. Gunning Park was renovated in '16, and in '17, a field at Halloran Park received a makeover. According to the city of Cleveland, field usage has improved "tremendously" after the renovations, with the number of games played at the field increasing fourfold.
"Growing up, I didn't have the greatest opportunities," Gomes said. "I grew up in Brazil, where baseball isn't really that big. But that's really the biggest thing, just giving kids the opportunities of whatever it is: to get them off the streets, to get out of trouble, get out there and play sports.
"It's really something I'm passionate about. It's a sport that I love, so we're really trying to get kids to see what we see and enjoy the game, and go out there and play."
Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.