On a crisp cool Sunday morning, Rogers Parks became the field of dreams again as the City of Inglewood announced a partnership with Club 42LA and The Michael Jackson Foundation to return Little League baseball to the community.
The origins of Little League baseball trace back to Williamsport, PA in 1938, but for a city that had lost the NHL hockey Kings and the Lakers to Los Angeles, then rising from the ashes to land two NFL franchises in the Rams and Chargers, and soon the Clippers in 2024, receiving a charter for the prestigious Little League was the icing on the cake.
Mayor James T. Butts, 3rd District Councilman Eloy Morales joined Estate of Michael Jackson Co-executor John G. Branca & his wife Jenna Branca, Club 42LA Founders Erin Jones Wesley, Johnny Buc Lockwood, Melissa Bowden, Tom Danco, Tommy Jackson to make it official that children of Inglewood would be allowed to participate in Little League baseball beginning in March 2020.
“First of all the City of Inglewood went from being the crown jewel of the South Bay to losing the Kings, losing the Lakers, losing the (Hollywood Park) racetrack, losing its finances and severe denudation of all their services including those for the children, so this is the resurrection, phoenix rising and now we are as good as anyone, but better than most,” said Mayor Butts.
The inspiration for returning Little League to Inglewood was inspired by an unlikely source, the 16-year old son of Councilman Morales.
“I didn’t play baseball growing up, but a while back there was one particular kid who played and he was really good,” Morales explained to Inglewood Today. “What ended up happening was that my kid loved baseball and I found out that there wasn’t really anywhere for him to play here,” Morales, a native of Inglewood stated.
John Branca is the nephew of the late Ralph Branca who resisted the laws of segregation to stand side by side with the great Jackie Robinson on Opening Day in 1947 when Robinson made his major league debut and remained friends with the man who broke baseball color barrier.
“It means a lot. I came out of an integrated community in Mount Vernon, New York. Inglewood reminds me of Mount Vernon, but of course we didn’t have pro sports teams and with Club 42 which we formed as a tribute to Jackie Robinson and my uncle Ralph Branca who integrated baseball, we renovated the field at Rogers Park so the local kids can play baseball,” stated Branca who attended the event with his wife Jenna and two sons John and Dylan.
Club 42LA, is a dynamic community based organization where youth from all corners are cultivated and supported on diverse pathways to success through sports, music, dance and esports programs.
Club 42LA supports educational institutions that share this mission and works with partners to host events that expand experiences for the youth throughout the Greater-Los Angeles area.
It also supports youth education through tuition awards, tutoring support, STEM classes and other academic opportunities.
“Today is a very special day. We are celebrating Inglewood Little League, having a new charter and starting up a new league,” Jones Wesley explained. “Club 42LA came down to Inglewood and saw that this park needed to be renovated and started to help the baseball program grow.”
She indicated that at the time Inglewood did not have a charter to become a member of Little League and subsequently reached out to Mayor Butts and Councilman Morales and decided to dedicate the time, effort and resources to make it happen.
The project that began three years ago has been instrumental in renovating more than just the baseball field, but the basketball courts, and has conducted Coding classes and summer camps for the community as well.
Isaac Yoshinaga, Sr. is the new president of Inglewood Little League and as a resident and an employee at the library takes great pride in the responsibly of overseeing the return of baseball for the kids in the community.
“We realized that there were a lot of great things happening in the City of Inglewood with basketball and football and we saw people playing fall league here, but we realized that there was not anything really set here for our own community,” added Yoshinaga. “So we discussed it and kicked it around and came up with the idea that Inglewood Little League would provide this great platform for our kids.”
There was some heavy lifting to get the ball rolling for the charter to return, establishing a non-profit and obtaining the necessary permits, but nothing compared to the reward once the league begins play.
For more information on how to sign your kids up or to become a volunteer go to www.inglewoodlittleleague.org.