On May 22 at 11:00 a.m., Mt. Airy Baseball, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the Finley Advisory Council,
and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) dedicated the improved ballfield at Finley Recreation Center, 7701 Mansfield Avenue. Mt. Airy Baseball raised $25,000–all from small contributions of $100 or less–to renovate the field. Councilwoman Parker matched the donation and with operational support from Parks & Recreation, a beautifully improved ballfield was born. The field will serve boys and girls ages 7-12.
Mt. Airy Baseball has been providing play and instruction for children ages 5-19 since 1985. In that time the league has grown from 25 kids playing on two teams to more than 700 kids playing on 50 teams each spring. In addition, there are another 100 in the summer travel program, more than 200 playing Fall Ball, and 125 taking part in the Winter Instructional Program–over 1,000 registrations each year. Everyone is welcome and no child is ever turned away for a family’s inability to pay a fee.
While the majority come from Northwest Philadelphia, East, and West Mt. Airy, Oak Lane and Germantown, 23 different Philadelphia zip codes are represented. Its strength is in its diversity. The Finley field is the sixth field Mt. Airy Baseball has renovated. As one of the few youth baseball programs that have been growing over the last several years, the need for adequate playing fields has also grown. This work complements the $2m renovations that were completed in 2019 by former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, Councilwoman Parker, and PPR. While improving a ball field is a large undertaking, maintaining the field is actually the more difficult task. All six fields are maintained by a volunteer grounds crew. The League raises $20-30,000 each year to maintain the fields. Those funds largely pay for supplies, tools, and materials. The vast majority of the labor is provided by volunteers. Every family is expected to contribute two hours each season either by helping at the concession stand or working on the grounds crew.
Among the hundreds of Mt. Airy Baseball volunteers are the coaches who give their time each year to teach kids the game of baseball and provide lifelong memories. Many coaches come back each year, long after their own kids have moved on. There are ten such coaches this year. Among them is Derrick Baldwin who has coached the Majors Blue Jays for many years. Derrick will coach the Blue Jays in the first game to be played at Finley on the 22nd. The field has special meaning for Derrick as he grew up playing on the field as a child and still lives a block away.
Over the last 35 years, hundreds of Mt. Airy Baseball players have gone on to play high school baseball, dozens have played college baseball, and 10 have gone on to play professionally. Three of those were taken in the Major League draft. Among those three was Jesse Biddle, taken by the Phillies in the first round. Jesse played for Derrick on the Majors (ages 11-12) Blue Jays. Last week, after being released by the Reds and just before being signed by the Atlanta Braves, Jesse posted a picture of him pitching for
Derrick’s Blue Jays team with a caption that read “Whatever team I play for next, this will always be my squad.”
While the field represents a collaboration among Mt. Airy Baseball, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the Finley Advisory Council and Parks & Rec, as importantly it represents a collaboration among hundreds of families, neighbors, and friends to create lifelong memories for hundreds and hundreds of Philadelphia kids, who will look back many years later and think “that will always be my squad.”