AUSTIN, Ind. (WDRB) – Baseball is more than a game in Austin, Indiana, It’s reshaping the city’s future.
“This story speaks to the power of the Austin community,” said Matt Bayes, the Austin High School varsity baseball coach. “Very deserving for this community. There’s a lot of good people doing a lot of good things here.”
Families came to celebrate the ribbon cutting for the new baseball fields, provided by a $50,000 grant.
“This facility will serve kids all the way from four all the way up to 14. It’s really important to reach your youth. And I think baseball is a great way to do that,” Bayes said.
It’s all thanks to the Scotts Field Refurbishment Program and Major League Baseball teaming up to transform hometown fields across America. More than 300 cities took a shot at $50,000 grants. Austin was up against big shot cities like Los Angeles.
“We’re a community of 4,000, maybe 22,000 in the county," said Chris Fugate, the Austin Clerk Treasurer. “So to think that we were even going to be able to compete with this is just kind of overwhelming.”
An underdog story at its finest, Austin won. The city was awarded one of five $50,000 grants.
Josh Peoples, Scotts general manager, said it was the community that really caught their attention in the competition.
Three years ago, the city had the highest rate of new HIV cases per capita in the country because of illegal drug use. But the community refused to let that define what they call home.
“That really makes it powerful for us,” said Peoples. “That this is a community ... that while an underdog ... wasn’t kind of depressed and feeling like there’s nothing they can do. They wanted to do something about it.”
Former Cincinnati Reds All-Star outfielder, Eric Davis, attended the ribbon cutting Wednesday. He told the crowd that he expects for kids and parents to reach out to him in a year to say how this has impacted the city.
“From the tough times that they’ve had over the past few years,” Davis said. “look at the turnout! I don’t have any more hope than they have for themselves. And when they tell me they’re hopeful, then I’m hopeful.”
The city hopes to attract traveling teams to use the facilities, which would bring more families and visitors to spend money in town.
“We don’t always make the news for the right reasons,” Bayes said. “But this is a step in the right direction for Austin.”
- Austin, Indiana, to unveil new baseball field funded by MLB grant Wednesday
- Austin, Indiana, receives $50,000 grant from MLB for new baseball field
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