CHICAGO (CBS) — Excitement was in the air at Blaine Elementary, 1420 W. Grace, as the Cubs granted the school 150-thousand dollars for new turf and other improvements.
“I’d like to present you with a check as one of our Diamond Project grantees,” said Laura Ricketts, President, Chicago Cubs Charities.
The project, launched two years ago, is designed to help improve youth baseball and softball fields across Chicago.
“This field you’re sitting on today, you may not know this but the Cubs help fund this field long before some of you were even alive. We wanted to make sure we helped invest in Blaine and make this field great and now 10 years later, it’s time to redo it,” said Mike Lufrano, Senior vice president, community affairs, Chicago Cubs.
The grant will support a new turf field surface and general field maintenance, logos, backstop and netting.
“This grant at Blaine represents one of 14 that we are making all across the city to support refurbishment of fields so children and families can come together and play diamond sports on fields that can be a source of pride for their communities,” said Ricketts.
Pitcher Jason Hammel was also on hand for the ceremony.
“Baseball started with me in my backyard. It was literally a tree an a tire that my step dad put up on the tree and I would fire baseball’s at it back and forth, over and over again,” said Hammel.
Hammel was born in Greenville, South Carolina, but raised in Port Orchard, Washington. He says his community and school ball fields were key to his success.
“I started on the little league fields too, before I ever made it to the big leagues. It all starts when you’re young and you work harder later but you can’t do that if you can’t have the right type of facilities to do it.”
Cubs Charities, with assistance from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago, selected local capital improvement projects to receive Diamond Project grants that ranged from $10,000 to $150,000 to support field surfaces, indoor training amenities, batting cages and general field and stadium support. Cubs Charities donated seven scoreboards to local fields in partnership with Daktronics, the manufacturer of the video boards at Wrigley Field.
“We are thrilled for this opportunity to partnership with the Cubs and expand our neighborhood backyard right here at Blaine, providing you guys opporuntinties to play baseball and build those skills to become the citizens we want you to become,” said Angela Brito, Co-Interim Principal, Blaine Elementary.
Just this year, Cubs Charities has awarded more than $860,000 to 14 Diamond Project grantees this year.