Halos pitch in to create field for kids
New park will serve as home to Angels Gene Autry RBI League
PLACENTIA, Calif. -- Before the news conference Friday that announced the renovation of a baseball and softball field benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Placentia-Yorba Linda, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and the city of Placentia, a few of the locals were standing around talking, and one gentleman said to the other, "Did you really ever think they would pull this off?" And the other replied, "Not really."
Placentia is one of the sometimes overlooked areas of Orange County, but a good number of residents, politicians and now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have gotten involved to help the city's Kraemer Clubhouse get a new field that will benefit all the kids in the area.
"This will give an opportunity to thousands of kids to learn the game of softball and give them an alternate choice," said Nathan Chappell, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Placentia-Yorba Linda. "It's a tool that we are going to use to teach kids about character and teamwork rather than their choices of being in a gang or doing drugs. This is a community that really needs this field."
So all the parties involved have worked for the past year to get the project going, and enlisted the help of the Magical Builders, Jon and Christy Frank's non-profit organization, which, for the last three years, has helped renovate Boys & Girls Clubs during All-Star Weekend in Detroit, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
"When the Angels called us a year ago and asked us if we wanted to help build a baseball field, we were very excited, especially because it wasn't All-Star-related," said Christy Frank, who serves as the Arizona-based organization's executive director. "It was something different, it was with a particular team, and working with the Angels has been a lot of fun for everyone involved."
"We are just looking for opportunities to do positive things for communities and our country," said Jon Frank, who co-founded Magical Builders with his wife. "When we were asked by the Angels to help build a softball field for their RBI program, there was no way we could pass that up."
The field will serve as home to the Angels Gene Autry RBI League, as well as youth programs throughout the local community. This is one of the first fields the Angels have been actively involved creating.
"We have been waiting for a project like this for a few years," said Mark Merhab, the chairman of the Angels Baseball Foundation, which focuses on initiatives aimed to create and improve education, healthcare, arts and sciences, and community-related youth programs throughout the region.
"The foundation has donated more than a million dollars to children's charities and youth programs over the past three years, and we are proud to be partnered with the Magical Builders and the city of Placentia, not only to provide a great field for the children in this community, but for the girls to use in their RBI league through their Boys & Girls club chapters."
On hand for the announcement were former Angel Bobby Grich, current first baseman Robb Quinlan and third-base coach Dino Ebel, who stayed and signed autographs for all who attended the event.
"This is definitely a great project," said Quinlan. "But more important, this is going to be great for the kids down the road to have some new fields to play on. It's great that everyone comes together like this, the Angels included, to help build a field like this here ... and to take an hour out of my day to come here and help out and help bring publicity to the field and let people know that the Angels are involved in the community, especially when it involves kids and baseball."
"Being on the Angels Foundation Board, we vote on grants around the Orange County area, and now I see it live and in person being put in place," said Grich. "I see the ground, I see the ball field, I see the people and what's going to be needed in the future. So after voting on the grant, I can now see the implementation of it, and it's like going full circle."
Now that the groundbreaking is under way, the real work begins.
"Our goal is to have this field finished by Spring Training of next year," said Christy Frank. "So the offseason is when all the work is going to be done, and working with an individual team means we have more time to do it and we have a lot more people involved."
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.