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Dodgers, McCourt race to fulfill community commitment

March 26, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, right, and center fielder Matt Kemp attend the dedication of the Dodgers Dreamfield at Mona Park in Compton last November.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, right, and center fielder Matt Kemp attend… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

The kids wore wide smiles, and Dodgers T-shirts. They celebrated the new baseball field at their local park with a clinic last Saturday conducted by Dodgers alumni. The city councilman eventually left, and so did the retired players, but a generation of kids have the Dodgers to thank for a first-class place to play ball.

When Frank McCourt looks back on 2011, he probably will not wear a smile. He fought in divorce court, and in bankruptcy court. He fought his ex-wife, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, his old law firm, the Dodgers’ television partner, even the attorneys of the fan beaten nearly to death in the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

However, as he prepares to surrender ownership of the team he fought so hard to keep, youths across the Southland can thank him for not pulling the plug on the Dodgers Dreamfield program. The scene last weekend at Harbor City Recreation Center was similar to ceremonies at parks and recreation centers from Northridge to Compton last year.  

The Dodgers Dream Foundation built — or rebuilt — nine youth baseball fields across Southern California from 2003 to 2010. In 2011, as McCourt’s ownership collapsed, he radically accelerated the Dreamfield program. In partnership with the LA84 Foundation, which manages the surplus funds from the 1984 Olympic Games, the Dodgers Dream Foundation delivered 10 fields last year alone.

The Dodgers are rushing to complete six more fields this year — before April 30, when McCourt is scheduled to transfer ownership to new hands. After last weekend’s ceremony, the Dodgers have five fields to complete within five weeks, which would increase the total number of fields to 25.

“This was incredibly important to Frank, and to all of us in the organization,” said Howard Sunkin, the Dodgers’ senior vice president. “We made a commitment to give back to the community in a meaningful way. We’re committed to this community, and we will remain committed.”

Sunkin said he is confident the Dodgers’ new owner will continue the program. The complete list of Dreamfields is available at dodgers.com/community.

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Dodgers, McCourt race to fulfill community commitment

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