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07/09/06 9:30 PM ET
MLB dedicates Little League field
Pittsburgh-area park honors longtime Duquesne resident
By Christie Cowles / MLB.com
DUQUESNE, Pa. -- Major League Baseball continued its All-Star community efforts in the Pittsburgh area on Sunday as it helped Duquesne Little League celebrate the renovation of its baseball field at Polish Hill Park.
The field was dedicated as J. Marcus Hughes Sr. Memorial Field, in honor of the longtime former Duquesne resident. His son, Marcus Hughes Jr., helped unveil the sign on the field's scoreboard bearing the new name.
ESPN's Harold Reynolds helped emcee the dedication event, and Major League Baseball vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell, Little League Baseball Urban Initiative director David James and Duquesne Little League officials, including president Juan Henderson, were in attendance, along with several Allegheny County officials.
Henderson said that he was excited about the refurbished facilities, and he hopes it will have a positive impact on the community. He said that the renovation was a two-year process, and he was very glad to see it completed.
"This is a big day for our community," Henderson said. The league serves 120 boys and girls, ages 7 to 18. "With the new field, we're going to probably double that number next year."
MLB recently made a donation to Little League's Urban Initiative, which helped support the Duquesne renovation project. The creation of Duquesne's league, now in its fifth year, is a direct result of the Urban Initiative. The field is adjacent to a branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, and it's also supported by the Duquesne School District.
The kids were happy to have the refurbished field in their backyard, and they can't wait to put it to use. Brasuell spoke to the group of about 50 kids sitting in the infield.
"We're going to see some of you guys in the Major Leagues one day -- if not on the field, we've got lots of opportunities off the field," said Brasuell. "[Major League] Baseball is so proud to be a partner of Little League Baseball. This is a great job they're doing, this is a great community and we're glad to be here."
Among the renovations to the facilities were a re-graded infield and outfield on a 60-foot Little League diamond, new infield and outfield sod, new plumbing, electrical upgrades, new outfield fencing, a new backstop, an upgraded drainage system and new dugouts.
"It looks great, I like it -- it's good for the kids to be able to come out and play ball, have a little fun," said Eric Barron, 16, who plays on a Duquesne Pony League team and has played baseball in the area since he was 5 years old. "It means a lot. The kids, they needed something. Before, it was a little swamp, and now they've got a brand new field to play on."
A ceremonial first pitch was thrown by 95-year-old resident and Duquesne youth supporter affectionately known to youngsters and adults as "Mrs. Simmons." The kids were excited to get the festivities started and get onto the field to play. Games were scheduled throughout the afternoon to celebrate the upgraded facilities.
"It's a great project that they did -- we really needed this in Duquesne. Baseball's been back here for five years. For a [while], it diminished," said John Mahone, who coaches and helps officiate games for 13- to 14-year-old Duquesne Pony teams. "They gave us the grant money to do [the renovation], and it turned out beautiful. I'm just as excited as the kids, because I'm going to umpire the first game."