The program, which is one of the most expansive, charitable, field-renovation programs in professional sports, is a partnership between the Astros Foundation, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and generous local, corporate sponsors. The Community Leaders program was created and jumpstarted by Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane, who worked with Houston Mayor Annise Parker to develop the concept.
In 2013, 14 youth baseball and softball fields were renovated by the program, and repairs are currently underway at four additional fields, which are expected to reopen in early 2014. The Astros Foundation provides free programming at the parks, including clinics for both children and their coaches. Several current and former Astros players took part in clinics and field-opening ceremonies in 2013, along with Crane and Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan.
"Having taken part in several field openings and clinics, I can say truly how awesome the Community Leaders program is," said Ryan. "It is so great to see our corporate sponsors come together with the Astros to make a positive difference in the lives of kids, and to promote the great game of baseball."
Field renovations include adding new sod, soil and clay, the installation of irrigation systems, new or repaired fencing, new dugouts and safety upgrades as needed. Renovations and repairs at the ballparks will continue over the five years of the program.
"It has made a huge difference in our community, " said Vicente Valdez, President of Lindale Little League, which serves close to 200 youngsters that play on two Community Leaders fields at Moody Park (sponsored by Calpine). "We are working with the Astros on additional upgrades as the program continues, including a new batting cage, new equipment and even special training for our volunteer coaches. The Astros' and their sponsors' investment in Community Leaders is a true home run for kids and their families in Houston's inner city."
COMMUNITY LEADERS EDUCATION ZONE
During this offseason, the Astros will construct a Community Leaders Education Zone at Minute Maid Park. The new area will provide information and photos of the program and track its progress moving forward. Included will be a list of the parks that have been refurbished, along with their matching corporate sponsors, as well as the fields being targeted for future renovations.
NEW LOOK FOR SIGNAGE
The Astros will also be relocating the Community Leaders signs that are currently located above the Crawford Box seats in left field. The new location, which will align the signs across the left field and left-centerfield facade, just below the railroad tracks, will provide improved visibility for the signs and clear the view of the Minute Maid Park train, which is a popular signature of the ballpark. The new location, which was also determined as a result of feedback from Astros fans, will provide a clearer view of the popular fireworks shows, presented by Marathon Oil, and of the downtown skyline.
"The Community Leaders program is, by far, one of the most dynamic reinvestment projects among all professional sports teams," Ryan commented. "The upcoming changes to Minute Maid Park will highlight the program for all fans to see, and enhance the visibility of our corporate partners, who have played a huge role in making it a reality. We value the feedback we receive from our great fans and feel that the changes we are making will be a win-win situation for everyone."
The corporate sponsors that are partnering with the Astros for the Community Leaders program are as follows: BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, Calpine, Champion Energy, Halliburton, Lexus, Nabors, National Oilwell Varco, Occidental Petroleum
and Schlumberger. In addition to providing dollars, the corporate sponsors also provide employees to work as volunteers at their respective parks.
The Astros championship banners and the 'DK' sign honoring the memory of former Astros pitcher Darryl Kile will also be moved to ideal, visible locations in the ballpark. The banners will be placed on the left field light towers, and the 'DK' sign will be placed in a prominent location to be determined in the near future.
National Signs will begin the relocation and installation process later this month.