INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Young baseball players will see quite the improvements to three ball diamonds at Rhodius Park. Close to 35 volunteers, all employees with the Indianapolis Indians, revamped fields with ties to an inner-city program, called Play Ball Indiana.
Play Ball Indiana is part of Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI). This summer, close to 1,900 children participated in the program.
"Most of our kids likely won't go on to play college baseball, pro baseball, or play for our Indianapolis Indians," said Mike Lennox, the executive director at Play Ball Indiana. "There’s a great chance these kids can turn into great people and great citizens. So, creating a major league citizen is a great goal for us."
Of the children signed up this year, close to 85 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch in their schools. Families can sign up their children for $25, but the organization does offer scholarships with the hope of not turning anyone away.
That leaves little funds left to maintain fields, which is the organization's responsibility at five Indy parks. Lennox said the organization relies on volunteers, coaches, parents, and even some players to do most of the work on their 35 to 40 ball diamonds.
That's why getting help from the Indians goes a long way.
"We are part of a community here in Indy that values civic engagement, even from our local sports teams," said Charlie Henry, the director of communications for the Indians. "When you look at our neighbors like the Pacers and Colts, we certainly feel a responsibility, like they do, to give back to our fan base and let them know it’s really not just about to coming out to our games and our facilities. "We certainly care about them and want to bring the game to them in different ways, too."
The volunteers spent the last week getting materials, some donated from others in the community, down to the field. On Friday, they stayed busy raking up dead grass, pulling weeds and vines from fences, and resetting home plate, the bases, and the pitcher's mound - all can shift several feet over time in dirt.
"Some of those neighborhoods that aren’t as fortunate, maybe don’t get to play the game as much," Henry said. "Maybe those facilities aren’t as well maintained. Things like this help bring the game to them a little bit easier."
Henry said the sports franchise has done work at Play Ball Indiana diamonds for the past three years, making the day of giving back part of Indy Do Day, which is Sept. 27-29. It's designed for residents of central Indiana to take ownership of their neighborhoods and work to maintain areas near them.
Youth in Play Ball Indiana will get to see the improvements soon. The organization does offer a fall league which will put children out on the fields over the course of the next several weekends.