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The center of ascension

Slugger Ryan Howard delighted in fraternizing with the youngsters whose athletic dreams his generosity will greatly assist. Photos by Tina Garceau

Philadelphia fancies itself as a city of firsts, with the attainment of unprecedented achievements following the pursuit of sheer novelty filling folks with an immense sense of satisfaction. July 21 offered a treat for those who go nuts for newness, as Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies, and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation opened The Ryan Howard Training Center at The Marian Anderson Recreation Center, 740 S. 17th St., with the space and an outdoor playing location at 20th Street and Pattison Avenue giving Philadelphia the nation’s only multi-site MLB Urban Youth Academy.

“There are words in this game that have a nice ring to them, such as ‘sacrifice’ and ‘home,’ words that remind us that this is a sport that makes us feel a bond,” Darrell Miller, Major League Baseball’s vice president for youth and facility development, said during the afternoon celebration. “Another big one is ‘team,’ and I’m proud to count myself as a member of the team that accomplished this. We did it!”

The representative received robust applause for his inclusive comment, especially because the concept for the 7,500-square-foot baseball/softball facility dates back nine years. Contending that baseball teaches one to be humble, he could have, based on that duration, stated that it encourages patience, too, but nobody appeared upset that the vision took nearly a decade to become a reality.

“This is about opportunity,” City of Philadelphia managing director Michael DiBerardinis said of the efforts of the local architectural firm EwingCole. “It is going to add to the arsenal of activities that we are proud to make available to our children.”

Through the stunning $2.5 million enclosure, which joined the existing recreation center in the winter, more than 8,000 Phillies Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities participants will engage in fitness training and educational and vocational programs headed by former and current Major League players, scouts, and coaches, among others. Its namesake, with wife Krystle by his side, beamed when speaking of their lot in life.

“It has been our passion to give back to the community,” the Phillies first baseman said of what he and his bride have accomplished through The Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation. “Today is a reminder that you always have to believe in your dreams and make them your priority.”

The slugger has long captivated fans with his bat, but his commitment in securing the completion of the project counted just as much to David Montgomery as every titanic home run has.

“He’s made his share of history, and he did it again here because your four-hole hitter is not normally your closer, too,” the franchise’s chairman said in a well-received demonstration of wordplay. “Today is a day to celebrate because a long journey has come to a very successful conclusion, and it’s because of people like Ryan that we’re here today.”

More than 20,000 young men and women have received tutelage through the MLB Academies collective, with north of 500 student-athletes having gone on to participate in collegiate baseball and softball programs. With such talent in their midst, the overseers knew they needed a stellar stop for their charges’ evolution, and the constant smiles on the faces of so many individuals, including the constituents of the Anderson Monarchs, who will also benefit from the boon after having used makeshift space through coach Steve Bandura, encouraged Mayor Jim Kenney to utter that everyone was congregating within “an awesomely stunning” addition to Parks and Recreation.

“This lets us speak of having yet another fine component in our portfolio,” commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said mid-way through the program. “The more opportunities we have for children to grow, the better we will be as a community.”

She and the other speakers, including Second District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who began his comments with “Let’s go, Monarchs,” pondered the possibilities that the center could help youngsters to explore as it joins the outdoor venue, which opened June 4, 2015, in bolstering Philadelphia’s baseball reputation. That history became apparent as RBI participants entered to cheers from the families and the dignitaries, with the senior players presenting the Howards with a signed bat before all of the eager applause receivers headed to Maryland’s Prince George’s County for the Major League Baseball RBI Regional Tournament.

RBI personnel, including Jared Sprague-Lott, a resident of the 700 block of South Ninth Street and a member of the Taney Youth Baseball Association squad that advanced to the 2014 Little League Baseball World Series, who helped to put up a batting cage, gathered around Ryan Howard, the ’06 National League Most Valuable Player, after he and Krystle unveiled the official name of the space. The end of the indoor portion of the occasion (attendees also had a chance to inspect a 66’ wide by 4’ high mural of baseball greats thank to The City of Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Program) endowed the professional with another instance of novelty for the onlookers, as he played pitcher in helping fellow left-handed batter Mateen Bradley to notch the ceremonial first hit.

“What a tremendous dream come true!” Dan Baker, the Phillies public address announcer and the day’s emcee, said as the Phillie Phanatic fraternized with the crowd. “Congratulations to everyone for a job well done.” SPR

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

Slugger Ryan Howard delighted in fraternizing with the youngsters whose athletic dreams his generosity will greatly assist. Photos by Tina Garceau

Slugger Ryan Howard delighted in fraternizing with the youngsters whose athletic dreams his generosity will greatly assist. Photos by Tina Garceau

Slugger Ryan Howard delighted in fraternizing with the youngsters whose athletic dreams his generosity will greatly assist. Photos by Tina Garceau

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