A few hours before the 1997 All-Star Game at Cleveland’s Jacobs Field, Major League Baseball and the Indians unveiled the first of five Larry Doby all-star playgrounds on the former site of an abandoned parking lot downtown. Doby, the American League’s first African American player, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated space, which was funded, along with four other playgrounds bearing his name, with $450,000 in proceeds from all-star workout day.
The playground project marked the beginning of the All-Star Legacy initiative, a joint effort between MLB and All-Star Game host teams that has donated approximately $85 million to local and national charities in the 21 years since.
“We look at this as something that’s going to leave an impact long after the All-Star Game has left the stadium,” said MLB vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell, who is already looking forward to commemorating the Doby playground project when the All-Star Game returns to Cleveland next year. “We’ve come a long way.”
With the Midsummer Classic being hosted at Nationals Park in July, MLB, the Nationals and the Nationals Dream Foundation on Wednesday announced the first details of seven community enrichment projects that make up this year’s All-Star Legacy initiative. The product of more than a year of planning and collaboration between Brasuell’s department and the Nationals Dream Foundation, chaired by Marla Lerner Tanebaum, the initiative will result in approximately $5 million in donations to support development efforts in Northern Virginia, Washington and Prince George’s County, as well as MLB’s national charitable partners.
The seven projects, which will be unveiled one by one during the week leading up to the All-Star Game on July 17, are:
— Renovations of the youth baseball field at Walker Mill Regional Park in Prince George’s County, including the installation of a new irrigation system, scoreboard, covered dugouts and batting cages.
— Renovations of two youth baseball fields at Fred Crabtree Park in Fairfax County, including the addition of new scoreboards, covered dugouts and batting cages.
— Construction of an all-star pavilion at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. Located next to the Academy’s main field, the pavilion will provide a nearly 3,000-square-foot open-air space with room for four short-throw batting cages.
— Construction of a teen room, playground, computer lab and community room at the SOME (So Others Might Eat) affordable housing complex on Spring Road in Northwest D.C. The complex provides affordable housing to 37 families, including more than 100 children.
— Renovation of a 12,000-square-foot USO logistics facility at Fort Belvoir. The facility is used to receive and store nonperishable goods and program supplies that are delivered weekly to the nine USO-Metro locations in the area.
— Renovation of the teen room at the Richard England Clubhouse on Benning Road in Northeast D.C., which is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.
— Development of a mobile dental unit in partnership with Children’s Hospital that will bring dental health professionals directly to children at 19 sites in D.C. Wards 7 and 8, as well as Prince George’s County.
“We knew the All-Star Legacy initiative was a great opportunity to be able to create something in the community that maybe, in the normal course of events, we wouldn’t be able to do,” Lerner Tanenbaum said. “All of the projects are kind of exciting in their own ways.”
Each year, MLB provides recommendations for certain types of projects that could be funded as part of the legacy initiative. Lerner Tanenbaum said she looked at what other recent All-Star Game host teams had done, but ultimately relied on conversations with her staff and her experience from previous charitable endeavors in the Washington area before submitting the Nationals’ ideas for this year’s initiative.
“What really guided me was what I thought we needed here,” Lerner Tanenbaum said. “We obviously wanted to do something with the military. The Youth Baseball Academy is our premiere program. Fields were really critical, too. We’re already committed to building a legacy field a year in D.C. and environs, and this gave us an opportunity to up that number. We want to continue to grow youth baseball in Washington.”
Indeed, field renovations are nothing new for the Nationals. In a project that’s completely separate from the All-Star Game initiative, the Dream Foundation will dedicate Bryce Harper Field at the Takoma Community Center later this month. As part of its legacy fields project, the team dedicated Ryan Zimmerman Field a few blocks from Nationals Park in 2016 and opened Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez Field in Annandale last year. The Nationals also have a long-standing relationship with Children’s Hospital. In 2007, for its first major initiative, the Dream Foundation committed more than $1 million toward the construction of the hospital’s state-of-the-art Diabetes Care Complex. Lerner Tanenbaum said she would like the foundation to become more involved in affordable housing initiatives, and the construction of the four rooms at SOME’s Spring Road complex this summer is a start.
Approximately $2 million of the estimated $5 million expected to be raised as part of this year’s legacy initiative will go toward the Nationals’ local projects, while the other roughly $3 million will support a few of the league’s national charities, including the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Nationals players past and present will take part in the unveiling of the seven projects, with details to come at a later date.
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