KANSAS CITY -- The Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program in Kansas City certainly benefited from a $1.8 million renovation to Cleveland Park in 2004.
But in order to keep the Kansas City RBI program growing, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City (BGCKC) decided Cleveland Park needed a little more work.
The BTF awarded the BGCKC a $50,000 grant to further renovate the fields, which included the addition of infield mix, laser grading and drainage around the diamonds. The renovated fields were officially dedicated in a ceremony on Friday morning between the first and second sessions of games in the Jr. RBI Classic, a non-competitive youth baseball and softball tournament being held in Kansas City this weekend.
As the 11- and 12-year-old players from the Kansas City teams in the tournament stood on the infield dirt, Dave Smith, president of the BGCKC, talked about how appreciative he was for the grant and the volunteer work of other groups.
"With the help of our supporters, we've been able to return our fields to the quality playing surfaces that our players and participants in this Jr. RBI Classic deserve," Smith said.
The MO-KAN chapter of the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), based in Lawrence, Kan., evaluated the Cleveland Park facility, identified the areas that needed to be renovated and volunteered in the production of the renovation. Cathy Bradley, executive director of the BTF since 2000, said her group and the STMA chapter out of Lawrence had never worked together on a project before.
The BTF, a joint initiative between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, awards grants for field renovations and other initiatives to support youth baseball and softball.
"This is what it's all about for us, being able to be a part of the improvement of fields and the enjoyment of the fields by the kids that are out here today," Bradley said.
Kim Heck, the chief executive officer of STMA nationally, said fifteen volunteers from the MO-KAN chapter of STMA spent two days on the Cleveland Park renovation, moving more than 900 tons of infield material.
"And really, that's the goal of our local chapter as well as the national STMA, is to provide safe playing fields for all levels of play, pee-wee to professional," Heck said.
A few of the players cut a ceremonial ribbon at the end of the ceremony, with Smith and Bradley right over their shoulders to make sure that the oversized scissors weren't being used inappropriately.
Fifteen minutes later, the players were back on the diamonds playing games.
The official Jr. RBI Classic opening ceremonies are set for Friday night at Satchel Paige Stadium. Players will also participate in a skills clinic hosted by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
Clark Goble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.