Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

With help from Cal Ripken foundation, Tampa opens synthetic-turf youth baseball field

TAMPA

With its all-new everything, flawless green synthetic turf and laser-straight foul lines, the new baseball field at the Springhill Park Community Center is custom-made for what Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. described Monday as youth development.

But, really, the $1 million field is for community development, too.

"These places are transformational," said Ripken, who came to Tampa's hardscrabble Sulphur Springs neighborhood to open the field — the 56th created nationwide with help from his family's Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

"This is a big-league surface," Ripken told a crowd of young players and community leaders. "Kids get to come out here and play. The community sees it. They embrace it and they protect it, and they don't let the element that might lead (kids) astray come on this field."

Ripken's foundation built its first park in Baltimore, where Ripken played 21 seasons with the Orioles. Baltimore is also where Tampa parks and recreation director Greg Bayor worked before moving south. When Mayor Bob Buckhorn hired him in 2012, Bayor brought the idea of creating a Ripken foundation youth development ballfield with him.

The city of Tampa put up $500,000 for the park. The foundation kicked in $150,000 of its own money and raised the rest from groups that include the Tampa Bay Rays, the Conn Memorial Foundation and CAN-DO, also known as the Children's Athletic Network and Dance Opportunities Inc.

The money paid for the artificial turf as well as a new scoreboard, dugouts, backstop and bleachers.

"A safe and amazing place," said seventh-grader Gabriel Pollard, a 13-year-old infielder with the North Seminole Little League. He played on such fields when he went to the 2014 RBI Junior Classic in St. Paul, Minn., but they're something "I never thought I would see here in Tampa."

Beyond raising money for the fields, the Ripken foundation stays involved through clinics and programs like Badges for Baseball, a mentoring program that teams at-risk youngsters with law enforcement officers.

"This will be a place where these kids can come and be kids," Buckhorn said, "and not worry about all the other things that they struggle with in these sometimes tough neighborhoods."

The city's goal is to make Sulphur Springs — historically one of the city's most blighted neighborhoods — safer, cleaner and eventually a place that families will "want their kids to come back to," Buckhorn said.

So the city has bulldozed more than 50 vacant, abandoned houses in Sulphur Springs and hired contractors to build 11 homes on the empty lots through an initiative called the Nehemiah Project.

The city also has added police patrols, assigned code enforcement officers to the neighborhood, organized mass trash pickups — 75 tons hauled away in 2015 alone — and worked with Tampa Electric to install more than 400 streetlights.

Last week, the city put out a request to expand the Nehemiah Project by seeking a contractor to build a second round of 20 houses with $1 million in funds from grants and other city sources. Responses are due April 11.

"Our mission from day one was to target the neighborhood that was most at risk and the neighborhood where we thought we could have the biggest impact," Buckhorn said. "I'm not sure we're ever done. This took 40 years to get to this point. It may take 40 years to restore it. We're not where we want to be, but we're a whole lot better off than we were 4½ years ago."

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

     
 
Comments
Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Animal Services is looking for the owners of dogs and cats that were seized from a Brooksville home last week.Animal Services, along with the Sheriff’s Office, removed 60 dogs and 23 cats from Carol Allard, 71, after...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

A sign asking customers at a Dunkin’ Donuts store in Baltimore to report employees who were heard not speaking English has set off a controversy.The sign, according tothe Baltimore Sun, would offer coupons to customers who reported workers at a dough...
Updated: 28 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

Safety Harbor fire chief departs: ‘Take pride in the job’

SAFETY HARBOR — When Fire Chief Joe Accetta started working at the Safety Harbor Fire Department, Fire Station 53 was a double wide in the middle of a field now home to Mease Countryside Hospital.Now almost four decades of challenges and promotions l...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies search for suspects in rapper XXXTentacion slaying

Deputies search for suspects in rapper XXXTentacion slaying

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Deputies were searching for suspects Tuesday after troubled rapper-singer XXXTentacion was fatally shot in the driver’s seat of a luxury electric sports car. The 20-year-old rising star, who pronounced his stage name "Ex Ex Ex...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Largo High defensive back Solomon Brown had plenty of college options with offers from 20 Division I-A schools. Still, the three-star recruit did not need to go through a prolonged process to figure out where he wanted to go.Two weeks ago, Brown comm...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fixing giant Pasco County sinkhole won’t mean a larger neighborhood lake

Fixing giant Pasco County sinkhole won’t mean a larger neighborhood lake

NEW PORT RICHEY – Pasco County is pulling the plug on the idea of connecting a giant sinkhole to a nearby lake in Land O’Lakes.Tuesday morning, commissioners, with little comment, agreed to abandon extending Lake Saxon within the Lake Padgett Estate...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Former Tampa Bay banking executive Bill Klich was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Bankers Association last week at an annual meeting in Palm Coast.Klich, 73, has a strong reputation with more than four decades of commercial ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Skyway 10K returning in March 2019, renewed for 5 more years

Skyway 10K returning in March 2019, renewed for 5 more years

ST. PETERSBURG — After raising $560,000 for its inaugural run on March 4, St Petersburg’s Skyway 10K will be returning in 2019 and will have the support of governmental agencies for years to come, run organizers said Tuesday.The run, which had around...
Updated: 1 hour ago