Phillies MLB Urban Youth Academy debuts

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Darius Isaac knows the thrill of playing on amazing fields, especially through participating in the Anderson Monarchs Baseball Club’s 2012 barnstorming tour, so when he set foot on the Phillies MLB Urban Youth Academy space, 20th Street and Pattison Avenue, June 4, his reaction reflected gratitude akin to what he has so often felt when preparing to perform.

“It’s a wonderful place for us to have fun and learn more about this game and ourselves,” the resident of the 1200 block of South 22nd Street said following an afternoon ceremony to christen the site. “I just learned about this event yesterday, so the excitement is pretty fresh.”

The Point Breeze dweller and peers from the Phillies Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and All-Star teams become the beneficiaries of Major League Baseball’s fifth urban youth academy and initial East Coast-situated venue. Years in the making, the $1.8-million brainchild will have a $2.5-million complement at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center, 740 S. 17th St., making Philadelphia the lone location to have both amenities through the professional overseer.

“This is a momentous day,” MLB Senior Vice President for Youth Programs Tony Reagins, whose employer helms similar outdoor facilities in California, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas, said. “We want to help our nation’s youths to have more positive experiences and more chances for growth.”

“It’s going to be another safe haven for them,” 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson added. “This is another example of how we are all about supporting our young people and their enrichment.”

The Point Breeze product commended the Phillies for their commitment to bolstering possibilities for children to challenge themselves through the sport, also acknowledging hard work from the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department and Michael DiBerardinis.

“This is a spectacular baseball facility,” the City of Philadelphia’s Deputy Mayor for Environmental & Community Resources said as the lead speaker. “Everyone involved knows the importance of youth development, and this project nails it.”

Reagins affirmed that by explaining that the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, which also offers softball instruction, supplements baseball tutelage with educational guidance, including SAT preparation. The free offerings promise, according to promotional material, to use baseball and softball “as vehicles to encourage character development and teaching important life lessons.”

“We’re so fortunate to have so many people want to play this game,” Phillies Chairman David Montgomery said. “Today is another indication that baseball is thriving.”

The local franchise is marking its 25th anniversary as a Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities benefactor. Having helped more than 8,000 youths to strengthen their diamond dreams, the organization has forged one of the nation’s largest and most active programs.

“We hope these players and many more to come will energize our national pastime,” Scott Palmer, the Phillies director of public affairs, said. “This field is the place where big league dreams begin.”

If looks alone indicated a location’s brilliance, the week-old stretch would already merit classification as a jewel. Situated within Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, the space offers up to 450 spectators stunning visuals on the field and off, the former apparent through impeccable grass, dugouts, a scoreboard and a press box and the latter evident through giving a glance to the left-field line, where one can see the Liberty Place towers, and taking a look down the right-field line, where Lincoln Financial Field, 1020 Pattison Ave., becomes visible.

“We’ve heard about this for years,” Demetrius Isaac, who, like his brother, can call himself a product of the Monarchs, said. “It’s great to have it all come to fruition, and it’s going to be even better when Marian Anderson enters the mix.”

The sophomore-to-be at Chestnut Hill College held a rendering of the future South of South-situated indoor facility as Montgomery elaborated on the uniqueness of the indoor-outdoor combination. With an expected November opening, the recreation center expanse will hit 7,500 square feet designed for baseball and softball training.

“I’ve always supported this project because it focuses on such a key word, opportunity,” Johnson said.

The youth guests, following an introduction from renounced announcer Dan Baker, immediately made the best of their opportunity by interacting with such special attendees as former Phillies Dick Allen and Gary Matthews, current slugger Ryan Howard and Philadelphia Stars Negro League standout Mahlon Duckett, all of whom participated in an unforgettable first pitch.

“It’s pretty good to follow tradition,” Darius Isaac, fresh from a photo with the Phillie Phanatic, said of duplicating his sibling’s standing as a Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities member. “I like that this program is going to be able to help me because it’s one of my goals to play at least two sports in college.”

“My job is to be a role model to him,” Demetrius Isaac confided. “I want to help his coaches and everyone else around him so he can be a better player and person than I am.” SPR

For more information, visit mlb.com/community/uya.jsp.

Contact Managing Editor Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.

The Phillies MLB Urban Youth Academy will again be in the spotlight beginning Monday, as high school players, including many locals, will compete there as Carpenter Cup participants.

Photo Provided by Miles Kennedy/Phillies

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