ROSELAND — Three South Side baseball fields are each set to receive a $20,000 refurbishing this month.
Two of the fields are located at Gately Park, 744 E. 103rd St., and Tuley Park, 501 E. 90th Pl. The other sits behind Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy High School, said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).
"I was born and raised in Roseland. This is where I played Little League baseball and where I now serve as an assistant coach for the Roseland Little League baseball team," Beale said at a Monday news conference at Gately to announce the refurbishing. "Anyone who knows me knows I am a baseball junkie and I want the baseball fields on the South Side to look like the ones on the North Side and the suburbs."
The inspiration to upgrade the fields came from the new movie "42," which depicts the life of Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League Baseball player.
Funding to improve the fields will come from sponsors, including Walmart and Ball Park.
All three are black, but Walton lamented the lack of professional African-American players now.
"Looking at the smiles on these kids faces made my trip here worth it," said Walton, who lives in Atlanta and played for the Cubs from 1989-93, winning rookie of the year honors in 1989. "Baseball is a fun sport and one that also teaches you how to work as a team and how to work hard. I only hope more blacks take an interest in the game because as it stands now, less than 10 percent of professional baseball players are black."
Historian Timuel Black noted that center fielder Marlon Byrd was the lone black player for the Cubs last year, and he was traded in April. The Sox also had no black players on its opening day roster last year.
Beale said he is hoping "42," which he hopes to see this week, inspires more blacks to "play ball" this summer.
"Baseball is an American sport that gives back more than you could ever imagine. It is an experience that everyone who played the game cherishes forever," Beale said.
Students at nearby Wendell Smith Elementary School also attended the news conference.
When Smith seventh-grader Keyon Griffin grows up, he plans on playing professional baseball just like his idol.
"I want to set records for others to try and break like Jackie Robinson did when he played baseball," said Griffin, 13. "It's good to know that a black man was the one who made it possible for me to someday become a famous baseball player. That's what I learned from watching the movie."
Tyson Staches, 14, also a seventh-grader at Smith, plans to join a baseball team for the first time this summer.
"Me and my friends, we play baseball and softball a lot during the summer. When I join the team I want to play shortstop because that's where all the balls are hit," Staches said.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) was also present.
Gately Park is located in both Harris and Beale's wards. Tuley is located in Harris' ward, and the Gwendolyn Brooks baseball field is located Beale's ward.