The Ford Heights Park District announced today that it was recently awarded a grant in the amount of $153,000 from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) to support the construction of a youth baseball field in the community.
The project will provide a home field for the village’s local youth team, the Ford Heights Pirates. The team has traveled to the outlying suburb of Olympia Fields for the past three seasons. This grant will bring a much-needed field to a program that has rapidly grown in size and skill, including winning the league championship in 2014 and placing second in 2015.
The grant follows a national advocacy effort on behalf of the players from Ford Heights from community leaders and Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. In addition, the Chicago White Sox organization advocated support for bringing a field to Ford Heights during the process.
Ford Heights – a 3,000 person village about 25 miles south of Chicago – is statistically among the most impoverished suburbs in the United States and has long been underserved in terms of economic development and social opportunities. As a result, the children of Ford Heights lack access to the quality after-school options found in more affluent communities.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has served as the sole law enforcement agency in Ford Heights since late 2008, when the former Ford Heights Police Department disbanded. Since then, Sheriff Dart has made it his office’s mission to invest in the community and people of the village.
An architectural search is underway. Construction is expected to begin later this year, with baseball activity expected to be officially underway by spring 2017.
“This grant gives the village an opportunity to change the community one child at a time,” said George “Kirby” Green, coach of the team and Ford Heights Park District president.
“We cannot accept the notion that opportunities to live full and active lives should be predicated solely on one’s zip code,” said Sheriff Dart. “For these kids, this field will help instill a sense of pride in their community. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund has truly done a wonderful thing that will benefit Ford Heights for generations to come.”
”The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is proud to support the project for the baseball field in Ford Heights,” said Cathy Bradley, Executive Director of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. “On behalf of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, we thank the Ford Heights Park District and its dedicated community leaders for their efforts to make the game accessible to young players.”
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has long had a close relationship with entities doing good work in Ford Heights, including the budding baseball team. The office has worked over the last year with the team’s coaches to help grow the number of participants and to work on various plans to build the baseball field.
The team is holding its 2nd Annual Sweet Season Dinner Fundraiser on April 9 at the Chicago Heights Park District West Banquet Hall. For more information, visit www.sweetseasondinner.eventbrite.com.
The Ford Heights team continues to grow in anticipation of the new field. In 2014, they partnered with a PONY league team in Olympia Fields to play under the Matteson-Olympia Fields baseball banner, which allowed them to be a part of a league and play on a field at Bicentennial Park in Olympia Fields. From 2014 to 2015 the Ford Heights baseball team saw their numbers quadruple, from 12 to 48 players.
About the Baseball Tomorrow Fund
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) is a joint initiative between the Major League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball designed to promote the growth of youth baseball and softball throughout the world by awarding grants to support field renovation and construction projects, equipment and uniform purchases, coaches training material and other selected program expenses. Since its formation by the MLBPA and MLB in 1999, BTF has awarded more than 800 grants totaling over $29 million to non-profit and tax-exempt organizations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia. BTF also facilitates league-wide initiatives including the collection and distribution of new and gently used equipment to organizations in need as well as field maintenance education clinics. For more information, visit baseballtomorrowfund.com and follow BTF on Facebook, Twitter and MLBlogs.
About the Ford Heights Park District
The Ford Heights Park District is a tax-exempt governmental organization serving Ford Heights and surrounding communities. The mission of the Ford Heights Park District is to provide accessible, non-discriminatory recreational services, facilities, and open space in an environmentally conscious, fiscally responsible manner. Founded in 2012, the Park District has become a staple of the community, and a resource for youth and family programs. The Park District commenced its first year as a member of the South Suburban Youth Baseball League in 2015. The organization currently offers baseball for youth 12 and under, with plans to add a pony level in the 2017 season for 13 and 14 year old players.