Last week, the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball dedicated a newly renovated baseball field in Gresham Park to the legendary Henry “Hank” Aaron.

Aaron is one of the greatest players of all time, with his greatest accomplishment being his 755 career home runs, currently second all-time, but his legacy went beyond the diamond, as he worked tirelessly to provide scholarships and opportunities to underprivileged youth.

“I think the fields that you see here today – both baseball and softball – will give these young people here at Gresham park the opportunity to take part in our game safely which is huge,” Tony Reagins, Chief Development Officer of MLB said. “We made a commitment to the community to invest and leave a legacy. That’s really what it’s all about: creating opportunities for young people.”

Gresham Park is considered a hub for black youth baseball and softball in south Atlanta, where several major and minor league players got their start, including current Braves outfielder and Georgia native Michael Harris II.

“Growing up, I knew how these fields looked and the condition they were in,” Harris shared. “Having the field turf now will definitely bring a lot of kids out and have more fun on the fields.”

In addition to a baseball field dedicated to Aaron, a softball field was dedicated to Bill Lucas, the first black general manager in MLB. His wife, Rubye, threw out the ceremonial pitch before the Braves RBI youth softball team took the field as they prepared for the RBI World Series.

“I feel like more girls our color will want to play, because they see it’s actually getting out there more,” Mikayla Stephens, a member of the RBI youth softball team said. “So I hope it has a big impact in the future for younger girls to play the game.”

 

 

Partners and supporters alike were emotional at the event, as the fields were a culmination of Aaron and Lucas’ work for equality. For DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, a pioneer in Georgia politics, he recognized the impact.

“This dedication of Hank Aaron and Bill Lucas fields is a transformational moment for black youth, not just in DeKalb or metro Atlanta, but all across this nation,” Thurmond said. “What this shows is an unprecedented investment to let young black boys and girls know that we support them and their athletic skills. More importantly, we’re going to build great young men and women that’s going to make major contributions, not just in baseball and sport, but in life in general.”

The Braves RBI youth softball team poses on the newly dedicated Bill Lucas softball field. (Photo Credit: Mason Smith)