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MLB Urban Youth Academy in Ponchartrain Park closer to becoming a reality

18th July 2011   ·   0 Comments

On Thursday, the New Orleans City Council approved an agreement announced on June 16, 2011 between Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Foundation to build and operate a year-round youth baseball and softball outreach program at Wesley Barrow Stadium in Pontchartrain Park.

The MLB Urban Youth Aca­demy will operate in partnership with New Orleans Recreation Development Commis­sion, providing programming for more than 1,500 underserved New Orleans area youth. The ordinance authorizing the city to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) with Major League Baseball was authored and championed by Council­members Arnie Fielkow and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

“I have said time and again that the best tool in improving our economy and reducing crime is by investing in meaningful activities for our youth,” said Mayor Landrieu. “There is no better partner than Major League Baseball to bring high-quality programming to the kids of New Orleans. Our $5.3 million renovation of Wesley Barrow Stadium, along with the revamped Joe Bartholomew Golf Course, will anchor our redevelopment efforts in Pontchartrain Park.”

As part of the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Initiative, MLB Urban Youth Academies provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction, as well as education programs to young people in urban communities. Major League Baseball currently operates Urban Youth Academies in Compton, California, Houston, Texas and Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Additionally, two academies have been announced for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Hialeah, Florida.

“I would like to thank Major League Baseball for their commitment to the youth of New Orleans. This state-of-the-art youth sports facility and the MLB programs that will be implemented there will have a huge impact on the participants, the Pontchartrain Park neighborhood and the entire city. In addition to baseball instruction, the outreach programs will teach important life skills, including the value of an education,” said Council Vice-President Fielkow. “I am extremely pleased with the progress being made, and I look forward to the upcoming groundbreaking of the new facility.”

“I am grateful to MLB for being our city’s partner in bringing this baseball campus to New Orleans. Building the Urban Youth Aca­demy on the Wesley Barrow site will help bring back the Pontchar­train Park neighborhood, which is in need of assistance in its effort to rebuild from Katrina. Furthermore, and most importantly, this will bring back substantial baseball programming to our youth through­out the whole city,” said Council President Jackie Clarkson.

“The council’s action today brings us another step closer to bringing this big league dream to reality in New Orleans. The re­building of Wesley Barrow Sta­dium, and the involvement of Major League Baseball in our community, will provide our children with an amazing opportunity to develop skills that will benefit them both on and off the field,” said District “D” Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

The plan for the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy is to operate in Wesley Barrow Stadium which, as one of Mayor Landrieu’s “100 Committed Projects,” is slated to receive more than $5.3 million in renovations. The new state-of-the-art facility will feature three playing fields, including a baseball, softball and tee ball field. The fields will have scoreboards, seating, dugouts and lights. The complex will feature four batting cages, an indoor facility, pitching mounds and other major league caliber training facilities. The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will operate on a year-round basis, offering free baseball and softball instruction, as well as clinics, to youth throughout southern Louisiana.

In addition to NORDC, the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will work in cooperation with Southern University at New Orleans, the local school districts and various chapters of the Boys & Girls Club of America, to select participants. The Academy will select recommended participants from throughout Southern Louisiana, primarily involving youth from any underserved community.

This article was originally published in the July 18, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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