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Major League Baseball, Houston Astros and City of Houston to develop third MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy
01/23/2009 12:55 PM ET

Major League Baseball (MLB), Houston Astros, and City of Houston jointly announced today their agreement to renovate and work together to operate the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy at Sylvester Turner Park. MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jimmie Lee Solomon, and Houston Astros Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Drayton McLane joined City of Houston Mayor Bill White and State Representative Sylvester Turner for the announcement at the site of the future complex. Located in north Houston, the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will provide year round free baseball and softball instruction to local youth, ages 7-17.

MLB is committed to bringing professional baseball to young people in urban America through the establishment of the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academies. To date MLB, has established and is operating an Academy in Compton, California and has recently signed agreements to build two more, one in Hialeah, Florida and now Houston, Texas.

"Major League Baseball is committed to improving the lives and increasing the opportunities of young athletes interested in our sport," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "I cannot think of a better way to prove our promise then by announcing today the development of a third Urban Youth Baseball Academy in Houston, Texas. We have carefully examined and identified areas where we felt there was a need for us to make significant and important investments for the growth of our sport, particularly among underserved communities. Thank you to the City of Houston, Drayton McLane and the Houston Astros for also showing their commitment to our future Major League Citizens."

Major League Baseball is scheduled to begin renovations on the Houston facility in February. The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will feature a show field complete with scoreboard; permanent seating for 500 fans, with space for an additional 1800 fans; dugouts and lights; one auxiliary fields; two little league/softball fields and batting cages; and a 1,500 square foot office space and other facilities.

"This is truly a case of 'if you build it, they will come," said State Representative Turner. "This park is set in a community that had not one baseball field; now it has three and people from all over the community come to the park for baseball and other activities. We built first class fields and when I put out the call to Major League Baseball to bring an urban youth academy here, they answered. I am grateful to MLB for choosing our park for their academy. For our community, this is the 'Field of Dreams.'"

The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will staff local high school, collegiate, current and former professional ballplayers and interns to help run the different Major League-caliber training camps and clinics throughout the year. It will offer the free programs to a minimum of 2,500 youth. Additional instructors, collegiate coaches, scouts, and certified athletic trainers will also work with young athletes at the Academy. The Academy will open its doors to all who want to participate from the Houston area with enrollment open year round.

"This is a great partnership that 'knocks one out of the park' in the effort to provide options for positive formation of Houston's young people. The academy will add greatly to the improvement of the quality of life for our citizens," said Mayor Bill White. "Houston is a great baseball town. The Houston Parks and Recreation Department is very happy to be home of the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy at Sylvester Turner Park."

In addition to baseball and softball instruction, boys and girls attending the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will be given the opportunity to participate in free seminars on umpiring, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics, as well as athletic sports training. The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will create a diversified program for students that will not only concentrate on baseball and softball, but educational opportunities as well. The Academy's goal is to graduate 100 percent of the youth it serves.

"The Houston Astros are excited to be a part of this revolutionary Academy. Baseball is America's Pastime, but to ensure its place in America's future, we must reach out and teach the next generation the beauty and joy of the game," said Houston Astros Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane. "More importantly than the baseball skills that will be taught at this Academy, are the educational opportunities each child will be given. The Astros have a goal of making a positive difference in the community, and this Academy is one more step toward reaching that goal."

The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Baseball Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will be modeled after the first Urban Youth Academy that was developed in Compton, California. Opening its doors in 2006, the Urban Youth Academy in Compton has proven that it can help to grow the game with more than 24 students athletes drafted since its inception. In total, 49 student athletes have signed professional contracts and 76 Academy student athletes have gone on to participate in collegiate baseball and softball programs.

In addition to the instructional leagues conducted throughout the year at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, the Academy also has hosted many youth baseball events including the RBI World Series presented by KPMG, the championship round of the RBI program; Urban Invitational, a highly competitive college baseball tournament featuring Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) playing top tier universities in the Southern California area; the Breakthrough Series in partnership with USA Baseball featuring three teams with players from the MLB Urban Youth Academy, Mentoring Viable Prospects and the Major League Scouting Bureau; and the Academy Barons, a California Collegiate League team consisting of collegiate athletes from around the southern California area. One-week umpiring camps are also held at the Academy for those interested in umpiring, improving their skills from the Little League to Major League levels. Currently, 13 former Umpire Camp attendees are working in the Minor Leagues.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.