For every home run hit on the Fourth of July, from Rancho Cucamonga to Frederick Keys, from Lethbridge to Peoria, from Oakland to New York and Seattle to Atlanta, $5,000 will be donated toward the construction and renovation of youth-league ballparks, with emphasis on inner-city programs.
This is the second year of "Homers for America," a program sponsored by Coca-Cola. It incorporates every home run hit in every major- and minor- league game on Independence Day _ 95 games in all.
Last year, 100 homers were hit on July 4, producing a $500,000 windfall, and when the program was expanded to include homers hit during the World Series, an additional $60,000 was raised.
Of that total, $100,000 went to five South Florida facilities _ three in Miami and one apiece in Homestead and Coral Gables _ ravaged by Hurricane Andrew. Ballparks in Los Angeles destroyed during the rioting in the wake of the Rodney King verdict also received $100,000.
"Frankly, when you've got half a million dollars or so to work with, you run out of money pretty quickly," said Mark Preisinger, spokesman for Coca-Cola USA. "We receive many more applications (for funds) than we can provide for.
"We look first at need _ and 90 percent of them are in severe need _ and then we look to fields that have community support or will provide it. We don't want to go in, build a field, then walk away and not know if there will be programs for that field. In a lot of cases, we've found programs that exist but where kids are playing in terrible conditions."
_ BRUCE LOWITT