The Astros organization continued its Community Leaders initiative on Saturday morning, opening three newly renovated youth ballfields at Melrose Park in north Houston.
National Oilwell Varco teamed up with the Astros Community Leaders program to sponsor these three new fields. National Oilwell Varco will also make a donation to the Astros Foundation to help fund the program over the next five years.
NOV chairman and CEO Pete Miller expressed how important it was for his company to give back to the community.
"It's really exciting for us to be a part of this program. We actually have a facility not too far from here and it's really a great deal for us to give back," Miller said. "A lot of these kids have parents that work for us, and it's great that we can renovate these fields and give these kids the chance to play on unique fields and learn a lot of things."
The Astros Foundation and NOV will be working with Northside National Little League, which serves more than 225 children and will use the newly revitalized youth ball grounds as its home field.
"The lessons that they will learn about teamwork, competitiveness and fair play are so important, and they will carry those lessons on for the rest of their lives," Miller said. "All of us remember playing ball when we were a kid, and it's some of our fondest memories growing up; so it is just great that we can help give this opportunity to these kids to play baseball as well."
Astros players Lucas Harrell and Jason Castro were on hand at the new fields Saturday morning, along with Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan.
"Baseball is a game that brings people together, and this is a place where kids can come and learn life lessons that will benefit them in the future -- whether they become baseball players or not," Ryan said. "It's great to build fans within our own market, but really the benefit is with the community and having citizens that grow up learning life lessons and become better people."
Saturday morning's event was another part of the Astros Community Leaders program that was originally launched last season by Astros owner Jim Crane. The program is investing $18 million in city-owned public youth baseball and softball fields in disadvantaged areas of Houston over the course of the next five years.
The Astros Foundation, along with various corporate sponsors, has now opened 14 new fields at five park locations to serve thousands of at-risk youth in Houston. All renovations for these fields have been paid for by the Community Leaders program, and at no cost to the Houston taxpayers.
Director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department Joseph Turner talked about the impact this program is having on all of the parks in the Houston area.
"This program established by Jim Crane has been a lifesaver for our department," Turner said. "Most people come to us looking for funding, and Mr. Crane came to us bringing funding for these parks and ballfields."
Every Community Leader partner also helps provide equipment and additional programming for these young ballplayers. The Astros Foundation, along with the Astros Urban Youth Academy, has helped with some of these programs, including putting on baseball and softball clinics. Current Astros players and UYA instructors helped instruct kids at these clinics.
Ryan Cantrell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.