Baseball Fields Open

Ripken brings new youth baseball field to Annapolis

The Capital - June 4, 2014
By Jack Lambert

Cal Ripken Jr.’s Hall of Fame baseball career included a record streak of 2,632 consecutive games.

Starting Thursday, thanks to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, the kids of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County will get a chance to begin their own streaks.

A state-of-the-art youth baseball field is scheduled to open Thursday at the Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park near the city’s Boys & Girls Club. The $1.3 million complex is the culmination of a three-year effort to bring a new athletic field to the city. The Bates park includes a baseball diamond with a dugout; a field for football, lacrosse and field hockey; a roofed outdoor basketball court; a concession stand; and a boardwalk.

Ripken said the Annapolis field, as well as the foundation’s 22 other fields across the country, honors his father.
Cal Ripken Sr. used baseball to help kids during his career as a minor-league and Major League manager, he said. “It was to use sport and help them to give them some positive things to focus on and, in many ways, keep them out of trouble,” Ripken said. The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation began discussions about building a field in Annapolis in 2011, said Steve Salem, the organization’s president.  Salem credited House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, for securing funding.  The Bates park received $350,000 in state bond funding for a new synthetic field in 2011. A year later, Annapolis got a $50,000 grant for the complex from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

The city received $100,000 in January from the state Department of Natural Resources, bringing government contributions to $500,000. The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation agreed to match state and local funding for the project. The foundation contributed $200,000 to the field construction, with the rest of the cost coming from private donations.

Busch said the complex will ensure kids from lower-income backgrounds have a place to play. “Many of the kids involved in the Boys & Girls Club do not have the same economic advantages many other kids have,” Busch said.  The county’s Department of Recreation and Parks will manage and maintain the fields, Salem said, although the Boys & Girls Club will have the first priority for using the facility.

Brian Woodward, acting city manager, said the new turf field will help continue youth sports seasons during bad weather.  “It’s really great for the kids who play youth sports because it allows for fields to be used all year round,” Woodward said.  Wiley H. Bates High School was a historically black school through the first half of the 20th century. The school closed in 1981 and was designated a historic landmark in 1994. A $27.2 million renovation of the building was completed in 2006.

Today, the Bates park on Smithville Street includes The Residences at Wiley H. Bates Heritage Park, the Annapolis Senior Activity Center, the Bates Boys & Girls Club, the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center, and the Memorial Courtyard.  The new field, which has synthetic turf, is one of seven Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation fields in Maryland scheduled to be completed by August.

Ripken said construction of the field at Bates park allowed him to visit Annapolis more than he had during his 21-year playing career with the Baltimore Orioles.  Annapolis was the site of the “unofficial” end of Ripken’s consecutive-games-played streak in 1985. Ripken injured his ankle the day before an exhibition game between the Orioles and the Naval Academy.  Not wanting to risk further injury, Ripken sat out the exhibition.
“I missed the Navy game early on in my career and they said my streak was over,” he said, laughing.
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