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With big assist from CSX, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation christens another Baltimore youth facility

Orioles great and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. stood beside Jermaine Swafford as the senior vice president and chief transportation officer of rail giant CSX cut the ribbon on another sparkling new sports field.

CSX Field at Baybrook Park is the 78th multipurpose synthetic turf facility built through the partnerships formed by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. It will serve as the home field for the Ben Franklin High School football team as well as the boys soccer team and the school’s new girls soccer team.

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“This is field No. 78 and by next year we’ll be at 100,” said Steve Salem, president and CEO of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. “It’s the 13th in Maryland and the 10th in Baltimore City. Our goal is to turf the entire city and we’re getting close.”

Under Armour and the Ravens also partnered in the project along with city and state officials, but CSX contributed $2.5 million to turn an unused empty field north of the high school into a NFL-caliber playing surface.

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Cal Ripken Jr. announces a new MLB and USA Baseball initiative called  “Hit and Run Baseball,” a modified version of youth baseball. It picks up the pace and gets players more active with fewer innings, batters and pitches.

Swafford said during a brief ceremony that it was one of the biggest grants ever awarded by CSX to this kind of project and reflects the company’s commitment to help in the redevelopment of the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay area.

Ripken focused on the impact the foundation’s 78 facilities have had and will have on the young people who use them.

“We look at them as youth development parks,” he said. “Specifically here, you have a football field and you’ve got a softball field, but you can do all kinds of stuff on this field. And we don’t really care what happens on all of these fields as long as they use them.

“If we wanted to break out a baseball game, I’m sure we could figure how to put bases down and do that. … So, we look at these as youth development parks and many times I also look at these as outdoor classrooms. I really think that’s how we should look at these things, so I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of a team that puts together this sort of project.”

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Stacey Ullrich, director of global philanthropy for Under Armour, said her company also is focused on improving facilities for youngsters in underserved areas of Baltimore and around the world.

“This is our 19th sports facility that we’ve invested in in Baltimore City and 42nd globally,” said Ullrich, who also serves on the board of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, “and we couldn’t think of a better community and neighborhood and school. With having Ben Franklin such a strong part of this community, it’s really awesome.”

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