KANSAS CITY -- Baseball's charitable tour around the Kansas City area came to a close Tuesday morning, and it fittingly ended at a baseball field.
The list of community initiatives made possible by funds stemming from the All-Star Game's presence in Kansas City was a long one, and the final initiative as part of Major League Baseball's lasting legacy program was unveiled Tuesday: the renovation of the baseball field at Mulkey Square Park.
Royals owner David Glass, Royals president Dan Glass, Royals legend and All-Star ambassador George Brett, MLB executive VP Tim Brosnan and Kansas City mayor Sly James were all on hand to help in the opening of the new field.
"We've seen kind of firsthand what impact a renovation like this can do. Bottom line, it adds a lot of community spirit, a lot of community pride to the area," Dan Glass said. "Not only do you get more player participation -- the players out playing, the kids are out playing, learning the game, learning about sportsmanship, learning about leadership, learning about friendship, sometimes failure -- but you have this collection of the community to get together: the family, the friends, their neighbors, gathering together to watch this, to take an active, integral part in these kids' lives and the lives of the people in their community.
"And that's the biggest benefit we've seen going forward. Our hope going forward with this, knowing this community and the great spirit and leadership that's here, this renovation will enhance that even further."
The renovations were made possible by the help of the organization Magical Builders, as well as product donations from the Scotts Company. Improvements to the field include a new irrigation system, infield and outfield maintenance, new infield skin, fencing construction, backstops, dugouts and improvements to the area around the field.
Mayor James spoke to the positive impact the All-Star Game is having on the Kansas City area.
"When people come up, reporters or whoever, and want to know about the city's investment and whether or not it's worth it, is the financial return worth the investment that the city makes. They always want to have things quantified in terms of the economic impact: how much money we get back. It's not always about money. We'll get plenty of money back, that's not the main thing," James said. "Look at what we're doing here. Look at these kids' faces. ... Look at the charity that's left behind, the money that the Major League Baseball organization is leaving behind. It's really about all of that."
According to Mark McHenry, the director of Kansas City Missouri Parks and Recreation, there has been a baseball diamond at Mulkey Square Park since 1940. The renovations to the field make it look brand new. Work on landscaping was still being completed before the event began Tuesday morning.
The field is used mainly by the Guadalupe Center Youth Baseball program. The renovations to the field will allow the program to expand and have an effect on more than 400 boys and girls throughout the Kansas City area. Bob Soltero, a board member of Guadalupe Center, was happy with the renovations.
"I played here when I was 8 years old," Soltero said. "I never thought I'd live to see the day to see this thing happen on the West Side. ... And thank God I'm still alive to be here and see all these kids coming up and playing baseball. That's what it's all about is baseball."
After the news conference, the field was opened with ceremonial first pitches, thrown by young kids and caught by Brett, Dan Glass, Brosnan and Mayor James. Following the pitches, the field hosted its first game, a tee-ball game. The Royals' grounds crew brought over the fence used in Sunday night's Taco Bell Celebrity & Legends Softball Game for use on the field.
One young player, Drew Marron, 11, spoke about how meaningful the renovations are to him and his fellow players.
"I am very excited to play in this new baseball park with all my friends," Marron said. "I want to thank the Major Leagues and the Royals and also the people who made this possible. Now we can play in our own league with our own friends in our community so that all of our friends and family can come out and watch us. One day I hope to be in the Major Leagues."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.