Show Mo'ne the MLB Youth Academy

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Phillies' Chase Utley (left) and Demetrius Jennings in 2010, unveiling a sign for the still-to-be-built academy, which may finally get under way this winter.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Phillies' Chase Utley (left) and Demetrius Jennings in 2010, unveiling a sign for the still-to-be-built academy, which may finally get under way this winter.
Posted: September 03, 2014

NOW THAT THE hoopla over the Taney Dragons is winding down, it's time to turn our attention to a more lasting investment in our young athletes - the baseball academy they were promised back in 2010.

Yes, you read that right. Four years ago, officials from the city, Major League Baseball and the Phillies announced a nearly $3 million MLB Urban Youth Academy Recreation Center at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center, in South Philly.

The Marian Anderson Monarchs, the baseball team that feeds some players to Taney, is where female phenom pitcher Mo'ne Davis started playing before she captivated audiences in the team's inspiring run for the 2014 Little League World Series.

The 2010 press conference was attended by all kinds of dignitaries, including Mayor Nutter, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and former Phillies star Dick Allen. Demetrius Jennings, a 17-year-old student at Penn Charter, was also there to tell everyone how much the Anderson rec center meant to him when he began to play baseball there as a 5 year old.

With academic and recreational programs, indoor and outdoor baseball facilities, the enhanced center promised in 2010 was to be the first of its kind in Philly.

It also, presumably, was going to be built before too many of the kids grew up and moved on. Not so for Jennings, the teen who was at the press conference. He's now a student and ballplayer at Wofford College, in South Carolina.

Over the years, my Daily News colleague Stan Hochman has dutifully kept on top of the center's progress, or lack thereof.

In 2011, Hochman wrote that he was told there was never a timetable, that the project wasn't getting a late start, it was just announced too early. Somebody mentioned something about bad weather holding things up. The city attorney handling the bidding process said that it's complicated when you have so many partners, including MLB, its affiliate Baseball Tomorrow, the city and the state.

Four years later, I got many of the same reasons for the delay.

In addition, DiBerardinis said that when they started to plan the project they were short $1.5 million, which he said was eventually covered by the city, the Phillies and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson with capital funds.

But - this just in - DiBerardinis also had an update to share. He said the project would go out to bid in the fall and construction would begin sometime in early winter.

"We expect the Academy at Marian Anderson Recreation Center to be completed sometime next summer," he later wrote in an email.

Rob Holiday, the Phillies' director of amateur scouting administration, added to the hopeful news. He said that the baseball fields at FDR Park also would be complete for the next baseball season.

When I shared the timeline with people who've anxiously awaited the center, I sensed more than a little skepticism.

If it was all the same to me, someone told me, he'd save his enthusiasm for when there's actually a shovel in the ground.

Fair enough.

Maybe I'm still on a Taney Dragons high, but I'm going to momentarily mute my cynical side and, fingers crossed, believe that after all these years we're finally heading for home.

Plus, dwelling on the past isn't going to make the center magically appear. (Like I said, this Taney high is a powerful thing.)

Instead, I'm going to hold everyone involved to this timeline. Actually, my colleague Stan and I will hold everyone to this timeline, because if the success of the Taney Dragons should have reminded us of anything, it's how much our kids are capable of when we believe and invest in them.


Email: ubinas@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5943

" @NotesFromHel

On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas

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