By: Mark Lane (@therealmarklane)
DALLAS — The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and The Globe Life And Accident Insurance Company presented a $10,000 grant to the Youth Conflict Resolution Center on behalf of the Oak Cliff Angels to help expand the Oak Cliff Angels baseball program Wednesday at the Oak Cliff YMCA.
Presenting the grant, which was written on a check shaped like a baseball, were Rangers pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez, third baseman Joey Gallo, outfielder Jared Hoying, and Texas Rangers Radio Network studio host Jared Sandler.
Homer Bush, Director of Youth Baseball Programs for the Texas Rangers explained what the $10,000 grant would be used for.
“Most of the grants are for field renovation,” said Bush. “That’s extremely important. The thing I’ve noticed since I’ve got out of baseball is that there is so much select baseball and tournament play that there’s no field uses for instruction. They get one practice a week for a team. And that’s just not enough to compete with international.”
Bush says he believes domestic baseball is “coming up short” at the prep levels due to the lack of instruction throughout the career of young baseball players due to restricted field access for players and coaches.
A native of East St. Louis, Illinois, an historically impoverished suburb across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, Bush knows how such assistance from a big league team helps inner city youth in their baseball development.
“We didn’t have anything like this,” Bush recalled. “It would have been off the charts. At the same time, just a patch of grass that you don’t have to worry about as many hops or bad hops. It has a major effect on development.”
Bush was drafted by the San Diego Padres at 18 years old and played in the minor leagues from 1991-97 when he was called up by the New York Yankees. Bush’s big league career last until 2004 with stops at Toronto and Florida before spending his final year back with the Yankees.
With the Rangers as head of Youth Baseball Programs, Bush has been working with Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Dallas-based Mercy Street on building a state-of-the-art facility in West Dallas called the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at the Mercy Street Sports Complex. Along with hosting baseball and softball tournaments and providing year-round instruction, the Academy will host coaching clinics and skills camps.
Said Bush: “To me, always, I’m too analytical and look too far down the road, but it would make them want to play the game more just having the piece of mind that you can go to this complex and play and assist in bases. It’s essential for development.”
Not only will the Academy assist with on-field performance, but also off-field performance and success for after athletics with giving youth access to tutoring programs, college prep classes, college and career fairs, financial literacy and internship programs, and MLB industry alternative career workshops.
Gallo shared with the kids his thoughts on how important school is, even in baseball.
“School obviously it does come first because when you want to get a scholarship or you want to go to a college that’s the first thing they have to look at is they look at grades and they look at how you do in school and if they want them at this school,” said Gallo.
For Gonzalez, such a high emphasis was placed on good grades over great play on the diamond that he missed a trip to play at a baseball tournament at Disney World.
“School and I didn’t really get along,” Gonzalez admitted. “I remember one summer I had a tournament in Orlando, the Disney tournament. So, I mean, we got to go to Disney World and I didn’t because I wasn’t getting the grades in school. In the summer I didn’t play any baseball. It was kind of a wake-up call.”
Hoying also had a similar experience, though his father only banned baseball for a week, which would anger the young Hoying.
“I kind of figured out quick that if I get some good grades, it will help you out later in life,” said Hoying.
The baseball complex, which will include a 36,000 square foot building, is expected to open in August 2017.