Nats look to build inner-city academy
Facility will be built in the Ward 7 neighborhood in Washington
WASHINGTON -- In partnership with the district government, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation announced on Tuesday that it is committed to building a youth baseball academy, which will engage inner-city youth in the sport of baseball, along with providing after-school educational programs.
Slated as a 16,000 square foot facility with three fields on 10 acres, the academy will be a year-round youth development program committed to helping youth with the skills necessary to succeed in life, and to become responsible, productive citizens in their community.
The academy is expected to be built in Ward 7, Fort DuPont Park in Washington, and will serve children of the District of Columbia, particularly in Wards 6, 7 and 8. The Nationals have put $3.5 million -- $1 million in capital funds and another $2.5 million in operating funds -- into the project, while the city has put up $3 million. The estimated cost, however, to get the academy built will be approximately $10 million. The foundation is looking for donations from corporate sponsors.
"There are so many kids who don't know anything about baseball because ... it hasn't been in D.C. for over 30 years. So it's going to give these children opportunities to really go there and learn what baseball is about. They are learning the history of baseball and about the statistics."
Teaching kids about the game of baseball is one of many methods the foundation wants to accomplish with the academy. The foundation wants to provide after-school and summer programs designed to prepare children for a secure and useful future by graduating from high school and college.
The foundation also wants use baseball and softball participation as a platform for improving health, nutrition and fitness, and encourage to kids to work in other areas surrounding baseball, such as broadcast journalism, groundskeeping and public relations.
"A lot people don't know that there are other job opportunities to baseball," Maldon said. "They just think if they don't become a baseball player, you don't make it. In fact, many athletes who do not make it to the pros are employed in the sports management business."
At a press conference on Tuesday evening, Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge said they learned a lot of about baseball through the RBI program while growing up in Florida.
Dukes was able to meet people outside of the United States and went to Disney World for the first time. Milledge received a taste of big league life when he played in a tournament at Tropicana Field.
"It gave us an opportunity to be in a big league atmosphere. It was real good for me," Milledge said. "It gives an opportunity for everybody, not just for black Americans, but for any nationality."
Maldon said he expects Nationals players to be involved in the baseball academy.
"It would be good for the players to go in as role models, giving these young people someone to look up to," Maldon said. "When they hear Dmitri Young give his story about how he came into baseball and what challenges he had to overcome to get here, they can say, 'Wow, I can now put a face on this for myself.'"
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.