MOTT HAVEN — The youth baseball nonprofit Harlem RBI is looking for some help online to upgrade one of its ball fields in the South Bronx.
The group's field at Patterson Playground is little more than a cement lot that has been painted like a baseball diamond. The field is littered with cracks and contains few of the most basic amenities normally included on a ball field, namely grass, dirt and a pitcher's mound.
"They still use it," Harlem RBI spokeswoman Hannah Kim said of the league's players. "They're using it, but they would really like some grass."
Harlem RBI recently launched an online fundraising campaign to help support its effort to replace this cement lot with a real baseball field in time for the new season next spring.
“We really want to launch this campaign as a grassroots way to really garner support from the community,” Kim said. “We really want everyone to be involved and take ownership of this field.”
The group hopes to get 250 donors by Sept. 25 for its online fundraising campaign, as another donor will give $25,000 to the cause if they hit this amount.
So far, the campaign has raised $1,919 from 25 people.
“It’s only been up for about two days, and it’s been doing really well,” Kim said, “so we’re pretty excited.”
Players in Harlem RBI’s South Bronx program sometimes make trips to Manhattan for games and come away reveling in the beauty of the baseball field there, which is one of the challenges involved with having them play on a concrete lot when they leave, Kim said.
“We just want to really provide the best for them,” she said, “and we know that we are a baseball and softball organization, so it is very important for them to have this place that they can call home.”
The Parks Department also plans to make improvements to the park's playground and basketball courts, according to Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa.
Harlem RBI was founded in 1991 and expanded to the South Bronx in 2013, where it now serves children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The nonprofit works with more than 1,700 boys and girls from ages five to 22 throughout East Harlem and the South Bronx. In 2008, it opened the DREAM Charter School in East Harlem.
Wanda Rodriguez, whose 12-year-old daughter, Xiomara Pagan, plays softball for Harlem RBI, said a grass baseball field would be preferable to a cement one, as it would be much safer for the kids to play on.
"When you fall on concrete, I mean, the fall is much harder than onto softer ground, on grass," she said.
Pagan agreed, noting that it was very painful to slide on a field made out of cement.
"I think it would be safer," she said, "because let’s say somebody’s running, and they fall face forward. It won’t hurt as much as concrete."