Dreamfield Coach Greg Brookins (middle, top row) fellow coaches and players pose on Opening Day 2014
Thanks to the Dodger Foundation, youth baseball interest is on the rise in the Los Angeles inner city, and Rancho Cienaga Sports Complex / Park (RCSC) takes advantage of the program to rebuild their baseball tradition. RCSC is home to Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis, and a number of influential sports influences from the Los Angeles inner-city youth sports community. But over the years, registration numbers have declined due to economic challenges and interest. With such hype and fame courting professional basketball and football, baseball stars don’t often appeal to inner city kids.
A Dreamfield player practices technique by keeping his glove down
“When I played as a kid, the park was packed and baseball games were exciting; as coach, I’m happy to see the increase in players and their families,” said Coach Marquese Dubose. The Dodgers are saving youth baseball, as young players run full stride, rounding third and sliding into home. Those competitive moments may never take place if there is no support. The Dodgers refurbished the fields, assisted parents with registration fees, and assisted in the overall structure of the program. “Not only did the Dodgers build a beautiful Dreamfield, they were able to subsidize the fee to only $25.00, which includes uniforms, equipment, and training clinics,” said Phillip Wiley, RCSC Recreation Coordinator. “
An RCS player works to trick the batter with an off-speed pitch
The Dodgers are helping to assuage a community’s financial challenge and resurrect the sport in over 30 LA. inner-city communities. “The Dodgers Foundation has invested more than $5 million dollars in 37 Dodgers Dreamfields in underserved communities in LA,” said Nichol Whiteman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Foundation. The foundation isn’t resting on its accomplishments but plans expansion. “With a goal of 50 fields, we intend to continue to build and refurbish these safe spaces for boys and girls to enjoy the games of baseball and softball while learning the true value of teamwork and sportsmanship. Dreamfields add to true pride within one’s community,” said Whiteman.
Through this effort, single parents are afforded participation opportunities in multi-siblings households. Where there was paucity, hundreds of future Dodger hopefuls (many first timers), field balls, swing for the fence, and enjoy the post games snacks supervised by Team Moms. The value of this program is not in wins or losses, but in bestowing upon young athletes (and their parents) the principles of sportsmanship and ethics – before, during, and after competition. The growing attendance indicates the community is buying into the program.
L.A. Dodgers donated two Dreamfield scoreboards to help bring excitement to games
The Dodgers frequently provide free tickets for players, coaches, and families. For many, this is their first professional baseball game experience. A picture of a 10 year-old kid, awestruck by the stadium’s magnificence, is the bigger picture. Away from the field, the Dodgers’ mission and focus is “to strengthen and support programs in Sports + Recreation, Education + Literacy and Health + Wellness benefitting children and families in need throughout the greater Los Angeles region. “Not only are kids asking to visit the park, they asking to sign up for baseball! Programs like these create a balance between competiveness and goodwill. Dodgers are in this community,” said Ralph Jordan, Senior Director 11, Los Angeles City Parks and Recreation.
Dreamfield coaches, team moms and parents work together in support of players
With such an extensive sports history, former Rancho Cienaga players often return to give back. “I grew up at Rancho and went on to play major college and professional sports; as a coach, winning is okay but my goal is that children learn the game and having fun doing it,” says former Cincinnati Bangle and Greenbay Packer, Antonio Chapman. Chapman’s fellow coach, team mom, and wife, mimics his thoughts. “As a Team Mom, I believe in supporting players through encouragement and motivation,” says Minisha Chapman. Minisha appreciates the connectivity that baseball brings into the household. “Because of baseball, families communicate better on and off the field,” she said.
According to Whitman, the Dodgers are creating a Universally Accessible Dreamfield (Baldwin Hills Park), for special needs kids. “It feels great working in my community and witnessing how this program impacts family and community,” said Wiley.
A Dreamfield player poses with his well-earned trophy
Registration is ongoing until the league is full. Opening Day is May 9. For information on registration at RCSC call (323) 290-2330 or (323) 290-3141 or visit the park at 5001 Rodeo Road, Los Angeles, CA 90016. For more information of the Dreamfield, visit, dodgers.com/LADF
All Photos by E. Mesiyah McGinnis