EAST NAPLES, Fla - The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation is traveling the country pairing cops and kids as part of the program's "Badges for Baseball."
The foundation hopes to build 50 parks by 2015. So far they have completed five, including Baker Field, a brand new 5,000 sq/ft facility in East Naples.
Right now Baker Field, situated behind the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County, sits quiet and empty. Construction just finished, but in a few short weeks, the facility will be full of kids running the bases.
"It's going to be a huge asset," says Stacy Clemmensen, site director for the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County.
The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation was created by his sons Bill and Cal Ripken Jr. to build character and teach critical life lessons to disadvantaged youth. Their mission is to reach those kids using baseball as a platform.
"Cal Ripken Sr. passed away in 1999. They wanted to try and give kids everything he gave them. Respect, leadership, teamwork. We just use baseball because that's what they know," says Jeff Breslin, director of grants and programs for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation based in Baltimore.
The core of the program is "Badges for Baseball" pairing cops with kids. That's why four Marco Island Police Officers spent their Monday night at the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County. They are volunteering their time and learning the fundamentals behind the program.
"We want to reduce the barriers that exist and allow them to see us as individuals willing to help," says Marco Island Police Officer Al Schettino.
The nearly $2 million field was made possible through donations from Patty and Jay Baker, who the field is named after, as well as the Naples Children & Education Foundation.
While it sits tucked behind the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County, it's a community field for kids at Youth Have, Grace Plcae and all kids in Collier County.
"It's been a long time coming, but we are so happy to have it and get those kids out on the field," says Clemmensen.
The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, was created in 2001. Since 2003, the foundation has reached over 815,000 kids across the country. Their first Youth Development Park was build on the former site of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Since, four more stadiums have been built, including Baker Field. The organizations goal is to build 50 fields by the year 2015.
For more information on the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation head to www.ripkenfoundation.org.
Kids will be able to use the field for the first time on September 8. An official ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on November 8 and a clinic for 200 kids will be held November 10-11. For more information contact Boys and Girls Club of Collier County at (239) 325-1700.