A sign was installed Monday morning marking the future site of the Martin Luther King Junior little league complex. In a few years the area will be host to three stadiums. And more importantly where the dreams of many youngsters begin.
"I started in 1954, when the league opened up on this side," says Eugene Lawson, 50-year baseball fan and forever, a coach at heart. "And I won the league over here," says Lawson.
Along with his former rival, Oree Matthews, these two veteran coaches are helping bring little league baseball back to the hub city. "We played baseball and we love baseball and I still do. I just can't do it anymore," says Matthews.
What they're doing now is more important than any title, they're insuring future little leaguers will have a better home to play ball. For the past 50 years Martin Luther King Little League has had one baseball field here at Mae Simmons and that has made it impossible to schedule games and practices.
"We can't play on many games as we'd like and we can't accept as many kids as we like because we only have one field," says Stephanie Hill, with MLK Little League. She says about 20 teams play at Mae Simmons Park. But with plans to build three new fields just blocks away, they'll be able to add dozens more.
"I hope to live long enough to see it develop and bring my grand kids and great grand kids here to play. And more importantly, to give these young people hope," says City councilman, T.J. Patterson.
City leaders and coaches alike agree, it's about more than having fun, it's about giving youngsters the opportunity to succeed in life. "If you see one kid who stays out of trouble and give you a hug because you did something for them on the field it means a lot," says Hill.
Over the years several former pro baseball players have come out of this league including the late Donnie Moore who played for the Angels. The new fields are expected to be completed by the year 2009.