MLB Builds Impressive Urban Youth Academy for KC Youth
By John Sharp
When I attended the ceremonial ribbon cutting of the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy in Parade Park in the 18th and Vine District on March 29, I expected to be very favorably impressed by the $20 million project.
I had already seen the four tournament quality outdoor turf fields and the colorful murals of Kansas City Monarchs and Royals stars on the outside of the 38,000 square foot academy.
But I didn’t expect to be blown away by the obvious quality and the sheer size of the indoor facility which features a major league size turf infield, four batting tunnels and four classrooms including an athletic training room.
I sat next to my good friend Bob Kendrick, president of the nearby Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and I don’t think he quit smiling during the whole ceremony.
This is the 8th such academy Major League Baseball has sponsored throughout the country to teach boys and girls, particularly in underserved communities, baseball and softball skills while also promoting their academic and personal development and exposing them to a variety of baseball and sports related careers.
The Kansas City Royals have committed $500,000 annually for 20 years for the operational costs of the Academy. Dayton Moore, Royals General Manager, said at the ceremony, “I love the diversity of baseball. We are going to bridge the gaps in our community by bringing urban, suburban and rural areas together at this facility.”
Darwin Pennye, the Academy executive director and a former professional baseball player, told me at the Academy’s community open house on Saturday, March 31, (attended by a crowd as diverse as Moore envisioned) that when he was a boy his sports heroes were the older boys playing ball right in his neighborhood.
“I want to create that sandlot atmosphere right here,” Pennye said.