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ITDC member Renee Ortiz and Roberto Clemente Jr. help bring "Field of Dreams" to community

Martin Hernandez

The name Roberto Clemente has long been synonymous with humanitarian. The story of his ultimate demise is one that we learn of as youngsters growing up. Clemente, the youngest of seven children, was born in Puerto Rico in 1934, and played his entire 18-year baseball career in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. There is a laundry list of professional accolades that he achieved during his illustrious career, but his incredibly selfless dedication to humanitarian and charitable efforts have indeed been his more enduring legacy.

Clemente passed away on December 31st, 1972 while en route to Nicaragua to provide the victims of a devastating earthquake with some much needed relief. During the trip, the overloaded plane crashed into the ocean off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico immediately after takeoff. In 1973, Clemente was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the first Presidential Citizens Medal. In 2002, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Major League Baseball acknowledges his charitable efforts every season by awarding the Roberto Clemente Award to the player with the most outstanding charitable efforts. Perhaps more importantly, the importance of charitable giving and caring for those less fortunate was stressed to the family that he left behind.

Upon learning that the park consisted of 21 acres, the same number that his father wore, Clemente Jr. feels that it is more that just coincidence that this opportunity presented itself. Clemente Jr. believes that the parks restoration will lead to a ripple effect that will echo throughout the community.

What was once a bastion for a energetic community, Ms. Ortiz pointed out has now turned into an area where criminal activity has increased both in regularity and severity.

Clemente Jr. was quick to point out that the amount of activities that can be sponsored by both the park itself as well as members of the community, both private and public, are limitless. Whether it involves league activity in all sports from baseball to swimming, concerts, and drive in movies just to name a few, it was made evident that the potential of the park is great.

Clemente Jr. is also hoping to add an additional branch of Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program to the newly named park in Brentwood. Ortiz and Clemente both believe that the success that the program has shown throughout the country can be duplicated in the surrounding community as well. The RBI program has proven to help keep kids off the streets and keeps them active. The ripple effect that Ortiz pointed to was a simple one; by keeping the kids off the streets after school, they are less likely to be doing negative activities, and they are staying active in a healthy way.

While both Renee Ortiz and Roberto Clemente Jr. are aggressively pursuing the improvement of the park as a way of helping the community as a whole, they also call for those in the community to help. Ortiz assured me that her door is always open for new ideas that will improve the community and that all those who have any interest in either sponsoring an event or volunteering to assist in the parks restoration will be welcome.

As much as we may place our trust community leaders, elected officials, police officers and other advocates to uphold and maintain our standards for vibrant communities, we must also not forget that at the end of the day, its the people who truly make up the neighborhoods in which we live in.

In order for our neighborhoods and communities to improve we must all have the desire to chip in and do our parts.