Major League Baseball takes another swing at Hialeah
Written by Scott Blake on December 18, 2013
An unfulfilled vow to run a Major League Baseball youth academy in Hialeah is now on its third potential site, where baseball officials hope to open in 2015.
Officials now covet the county’s Amelia Earhart Park at 401 E 65th St. for the academy, said Darrell Miller, MLB’s vice president of youth and facility development.
“We had to switch venues,” Mr. Miller said. The park site “has a bigger footprint. There were a lot of issues with the other site.”
The project is in “the design phase,” he said, and “we’re hoping to have something to show to the public early next year” with a mid-2015 opening goal.
Now, he added, the concept calls for a four-field complex with indoor facilities, offices, batting cages and more.
MLB runs academies to develop “inner-city” youths’ baseball talent and offer recreation.
A Hialeah academy was a support-winning chip in the deal to build Marlins Park in Little Havana. Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami primarily financed construction and parking to build a home for the Miami Marlins.
Mr. Miller said the new site is near the prior target: about 13 acres of fields at Hialeah Community Middle School, 6027 E Seventh Ave.
MLB is now dealing for the new site with the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, said Hialeah City Attorney Bill Grodnick.
“They still have not secured the site,” he said.
Mr. Grodnick had worked with MLB and others on the prior two targets. The first was raw land owned by Flagler Development, but talks failed. The middle school was the second, but MLB couldn’t cut a deal with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Mr. Grodnick said.
“It didn’t pan out,” he said. “Middle administrators at the school board wanted to negotiate a number of things… There was a parking issue that was never fully resolved.”
The city isn’t as involved in the new site, he added, so it’s up to MLB and the county to settle.
MLB’s first youth baseball academy opened in Los Angeles in 2006. Academies in other cities have opened since or are in the works. Hialeah was to have been among the first.
Mr. Miller said academies typically cost $2 million to $5 million, and MLB has about $3.2 million for Hialeah’s. He also said MLB is “talking” with the Miami Marlins about what the team’s role with the academy will be.
Two weeks ago the Marlins and other teams were involved in youth baseball events in the Orlando area coinciding with MLB’s winter meeting there. MLB and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program hosted clinics and activities for about 3,000 5- to 18-year-olds, Mr. Miller said.
“The Marlins do a good job in off-the-field activities,” he said.
Youths took part in baseball instruction drills in Orlando and displayed skills for college and professional scouts at a “scouting showcase.”
Academies like the one aimed at Hialeah fall under MLB’s Urban Youth Academy program that provides free baseball instruction for youths, targeting the underprivileged. The academies also help the league develop talent.
Said Mr. Miller, “We placed a priority on identifying communities around the country who had a need and desire to serve its youth.”