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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

No joy in Birmingham; the MLB Youth Academy has struck out

Shame on you. Shame on all of you who wrote an email, attended a meeting, raised a voice or otherwise worked to keep a Major League Baseball Youth Academy out of George Ward Park - and thus out of Birmingham.

You've succeeded, at least for the time being, in holding this city back and robbing this city's children of an enriching, enduring experience.

Major League Baseball, at least for now, has turned its attention elsewhere, according to the MLB official who had been working with the City of Birmingham. The children of Vero Beach, Fla., will be the beneficiaries of the empowering opportunities these Youth Academies have been providing at select locations across the country.

Why? Why is the project that was approved 8-1 by the Birmingham City Council going elsewhere? How did a score of 8-1 not win the day here when it wins the game at every ballpark in America?

Because a vocal few of you would rather put up a wall around George Ward Park and keep people out rather than welcoming people in. Because a tiny, angry handful of you disagreed with the democratic process and continued to toss seeds of doubt and dissent at the city's would-be partners with Major League Baseball.

Don't tell me, as one of you told an MLB official in a misleading email, that bringing the Youth Academy to George Ward Park would "disrupt a heavily used, cheerfully functioning park."

I visited George Ward Park after school on a recent weekday afternoon. With blue skies and a pleasant breeze, it was a perfect day for baseball and softball. I've spent many rewarding days just like it coaching community park and travel baseball teams.

You know how many people were using the baseball and softball fields at George Ward Park on that beautiful late afternoon? Zero.

You know how many kids would be using those new-and-improved fields if an MLB Youth Academy were headquartered there? Plenty. They would be enjoying the great games of baseball and softball. They would be participating in STEM classes and vocational programs. They would be learning from qualified instructors, developing their minds, bodies and character in a positive way.

And, despite your unfounded, alleged fears, the vast majority of the park still would be available for joggers, disc golfers and dog walkers.

Instead, a few of you kicked up enough dust to give Major League Baseball the wrong impression of Birmingham as a city of closed minds rather than open arms. So an incredible opportunity for our youth has found a new home in another state.

Shame on you. Because that's not Birmingham. Hopefully, down the road, Major League Baseball will see the truth and reconsider.

The beautiful Major League Baseball Youth Academy in Washington, D.C.



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