Cal Ripken Jr. made his Major League Baseball debut against Kansas City in 1981. But during his trip to the area Thursday, he was in a suit instead of a uniform, and was debuting something else — a youth baseball field.
Ripken’s foundation helped with fundraising and construction of The George and Doris Haley Field, unveiled Thursday at 5325 Parallel Parkway in Kansas City, Kan. The field is named after the late former lawyer and senator, George Haley, and his wife Doris, who attended the ceremony Thursday.
As the new home for the Kansas’ “Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities” MLB program, the field will serve more than 1,000 youth players. It’s similar to 56 other youth fields across the country that Ripken’s foundation has built for under-served children.
“We use baseball just to get (kids) interested in something and once they’re interested, we can get them matched with caring adults, who can advise and direct them in positive directions,” Ripken said. “Hopefully they’ll be a little bit more productive and can start to enjoy a direction in life, and they’ll start to understand the value of themselves.”
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The smell of synthetic turf in the air, Ripken was one of several to snip the blue ribbon in front of the third-base dugout Thursday. Funds for the project came from several sources, including the Royals, who donated $300,000, MLB’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund, and other private donors.
In addition to the synthetic turf, which requires less maintenance than grass, the George and Doris Haley Field also includes two dugouts, bleachers and a digital scoreboard.
About 40 kids involved in the Kansas RBI program attended Thursday’s ribbon-cutting. After the festivities, they gathered cross-legged on the synthetic mound to listen to Ripken talk about the game they all shared.
Ripken, the major-league record-holder for most consecutive games played, stressed that his consistency was a product of his love for baseball, and that they should chase their passions with the same vigor.
“I played all those games because I loved it,” he told the kids. “If you find something you love, you really have to go after it.”