The Jason Heyward Baseball Academy Got Em’ Screaming “West Side” In Chicago

The Jason Heyward Baseball Academy Got Em’ Screaming “West Side” In Chicago

Jason Heyward has already helped bring a World Series Championship to the city of Chicago. Now, Heyward is ready to help create the next baseball hotbed in the midwest.

After breaking ground last year, the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy is scheduled for a soft opening this coming winter. Heyward himself has selected the academy’s head of baseball operations, and is in the process of finalizing the hire.

“There’s so much opportunity to create a place to host tournaments, to host a league, to have a travel-ball team have that as their home base facility-wise,” Heyward told the Chicago Sun -Times.

“But just give all the kids in the community a place to get excited about going to play. I remember what that was like for me playing in East Cobb, being from McDonough, Henry County, just out of Atlanta.”

 

Roberto Clemente Award | MLBbros Tony Kemp and J-Hey Kid Nominated

 

 

The East Cobb travel team Heyward played for is the East Cobb Astros, a national powerhouse based in Georgia. The Astros have produced dozens of MLB players, including fellow MLBbro Brandon Phillips. The high cost of travel ball has been well documented, but one of the keys to a quality travel baseball program that often gets overlooked is access to state of the art facilities.

With the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy, Black kids on the West Side of Chicago will now have their opportunity to build a powerhouse similar to the one that produced Heyward. The JHBA sits on a 10-acre site in North Austin, a predominantly black neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago.

“I want all the kids to get the right fundamentals and, if they love the game, to keep playing,” Heyward said. “But, if not, we would like to expose them to front-office jobs, media jobs, coaching jobs, all that kinds of stuff, as well.”

Heyward Still Leader In Cubs Clubhouse

The Cubs may not be contenders anymore, but Heyward has remained a pillar in their locker room, just like he’s been in the community.

Heyward, one of three remaining Cubs from that 2016 Championship squad, was hitting .316 with an OBP of .381 before the Cubs took on the Rays Wednesday. Albeit a small sample size, Heyward has once again showcased his ability to get on base. This is a welcomed sight after posting a career low .280 OBP last season.

 

Don’t Let The Numbers Fool You, Jason Heyward Can Be Productive At The Plate

 

Jason’s effectiveness at the plate may seem like a flashback to days of “prime” Heyward, but his glove has always remained elite. However, this season would provide a different challenge for the five time Gold Glove recipient, as the Cubs asked Heyward to play center in order to accommodate $85 million man Seiya Suzuki.

Some have wondered if a move to centerfield was the right move for the 32-year-old Heyward, who has had several injuries over the past few seasons. But so far, the vet has shown he still possesses enough athleticism to man the most difficult spot in the outfield.

After helping to end the longest championship drought in North American sports, many fans would say Jason has done enough for Chicago.  He just keeps giving more of himself for various causes.

 

 

But for Heyward it has always been bigger than baseball, and now the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy will help create opportunities on and off the field.

MLB Needs A “Hardball Classic” In Chicago

MLB Needs A “Hardball Classic” In Chicago

 

Major League Baseball won big with the inaugural Field of Dreams game in Dryersville, Iowa.

The instant classic drew 5.9 million viewers nationwide, making it the most watched baseball game in 16 years.

Yet, even with the colossal success of the event and Hollywood ending to the game, I can almost guarantee most young fans have never seen the movie and have no intentions of doing so. 

And who can really blame them? A movie about two fictional all white teams coming back to life and playing each other in an Iowa cornfield doesn’t exactly make me say, “Damn, I really need to watch this.” 


 While well executed, the Field of Dreams game serviced the same old, white audience baseball has always catered to. There was however, one event during this showcase that gave me hope for MLB’s inner-city efforts.

 On the Wednesday before the Field of Dreams game, Major League Baseball hosted an exhibition game called “ A Dream Fulfilled” where the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite Program took on the East Harlem and South Bronx-based DREAM program from New York.

 These types of showcases are extremely important for growing the game, and the kids definitely put on a show.

While the MLB has already announced the return of the Field of Dreams game next season, there is another classic baseball film that could serve as the perfect theme for another showcase. 

 I’m referring to the 2002 classic “Hardball’.

https://youtu.be/e0qpJCNLViQ

Based in Chicago and centered on an inner city youth baseball team, this film was a cult classic in the Black community, especially amongst young ball players like myself.

 The “Hardball Classic” (that’s what I’ve decided to name it) would be held in Chicago and feature The White Sox and the Cubs. 

However, instead of being played at historic Wrigley Field or Guaranteed Rate Field, the MLB could create a similar band-box atmosphere by renovating Robert Taylor Park, which sits at the heart of what was once the largest public housing project in America. 

  A gesture like this would show that the league is invested in growing the game of baseball in Black communities. If a full renovation isn’t feasible, then the game could also be played at Curtis Granderson Stadium.

This beautiful stadium is home to the UIC flames and has one of the most breathtaking backdrops of any stadium in America; the Chicago Skyline. 

 Hosting the Crosstown Classic in such a unique manner would not only give the league an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Tim Anderson, who legendary commentator Joe Buck recently said should be the face of baseball, but it will also give young MLBbros like Brennan Davis, who is likely to make the Cubs 2022 Opening day roster, the opportunity to shine. 

The Field of Dreams game was great, but more than anything it proved that fans enjoy innovation.

And for a league that needs to connect with its diverse demographic, embracing cultural references that happened in the 21st century would be a great start.