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Refurbished Mulkey Park reopens

Well if you build it they will come. That is the story of Mulkey Park, a venerable baseball field on the City’s Westside at 1100 Summit. The layout of the park offers a majestic vista of downtown and the Missouri and Kansas rivers flood plains below.

According the Guadalupe Centers Inc., (GCI) CEO Cris Medina, the park has been a community resource dating back to the 20’s and 30’s when it was the center of organized activity around the game of baseball.

The park had seen better years until a renovation financed by Major League Baseball few years back helped turn the fading diamond around. This past weekend the field took on another shine to its image when a special ribbon cutting ceremony attended by representatives of Scotts®, the Kansas City Royals, Major League Baseball and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, celebrated the opening of a newly refurbished baseball field at the site.

“Enhancements made to the field include: sodding the infield, a new clay pitcher’s mound, new batter’s boxes, topdressing the base paths, reworking the infield arc, and restoration of the field staging area.

“These field refurbishments are just one way we can give back to youth and communities across the country,” said Josh Peoples, vice president and general manager of Scotts®. “Encouraging fans and family to get outside and enjoy activities like baseball is what this program is all about.”

“We are here to dedicate this park today to the players, the kids, everyone that has made PLAY BALL special. This is a park that is dedicated to make sure that we reenergize baseball in the inner city and this community in particular with this beautiful skyline, said Mayor Sly James as he and the young baseball players cut the ribbon for the new park.

PLAY BALL is a joint initiative between MLB, USA Baseball and USA Softball. In addition to encouraging participation in both formal and casual baseball and softball activities, PLAY BALL aims to give kids the opportunity to enjoy the game in a fun environment by highlighting the many ways baseball and softball can be played and providing memorable experiences; introduce young people to the sport who otherwise may not have the chance to experience it; and offer a healthy and active lifestyle option where many of those opportunities are being offered less frequently.

One of the things that people visiting the park will notice immediately is the addition of a grass surface to the field. Under a grant from the Cal Ripken Foundation, the filed was re-sodded and an underground irrigation system installed.

“This is something new. This is like having a carpet to play on,” enthused Medina. “We never had fields this nice unless you got to make it to the nice complexes. Now we don’t have to take our kids out of the city, we can do it here. You can go to Johnson County. You can go up north of the river. Now we have one in the inner city. We are one of the few.”

Manuel “Rabbit” Hernandez, head of sports programming for GCI, gushed over the new field. He likes the cut of the grass on the field and while some may think it is a hindrance he sees an advantage.

“I like it because it makes the kids feel like they are playing at Royals stadium. The other thing is the ball takes a different bounce now and you have to adjust. With the dirt it was faster and with the grass it is going to make it do some weird things sometimes. In the long run a lot of people like it,” he said.

The renovations are long overdue according to Hernandez.

“We are getting too big. There are more kids wanting to play ball now,” he explained. “Maybe its because the Royals are winning. We are getting good turnouts as you can see this morning. The numbers are really up. Our t-ball teams lead up to another division, which is machine pitch … which leads up to regular baseball. Next year we will probably have four teams in different divisions.

The ballpark is getting a lot of requests for use. The field is specifically set up for kids and youth baseball up to eight graders and girls fast pitch softball all the way up to twelfth grade. GCI manages the field under contract with KCMO Parks and Recreation dept. Medina emphasized that while there is a desire to open up the field it is specifically deigned for youth sports.

“Yes, there is a lot of new people coming in (to the Westside and surrounding area) and we have had a lot of inquiries for this park, but there are other parks even in the Westside such as Jarboe and Observation where people could play other than using this field,” stated Medina.

John Mayberry, former Royals great first baseman, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and is a fan of the landscaping and the verdant blanket that covers the field.

“To have a green field and a great place to play baseball in a comfortable environment and you got good parent support; it is just a great place to be. Baseball has been something that brings people together since it was invented,” he added.

Mayberry sees a connection between his own career and the Latino community.

“You know if wasn’t for the Latinos, I don’t think I would have played in Major League Baseball, saying that meaning that when I was young … when I signed with the Houston Astros, I used to go to the Dominican Republic and play baseball in the winter time and I had some great mentors. I knew all the Alous, Rico Carti, and the great Juan Marichal. They taught me some thing and they helped me get over the hump from Triple-A to the big leagues. I thank God almighty for a 15-year career.