Members, staff, and supporters of the Morgan Park High School Mustangs shovel dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for the school's new baseball field. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

MORGAN PARK — One of the city’s best baseball teams is finally getting the field it deserves.

Chicago Cubs Charities presented the Morgan Park High School Mustangs Friday with a check for $87,380 to cover the cost of renovating the 103 year-old school’s baseball field, which will include the installation of new turf, bleachers, dugouts, a press box and a scoreboard.

It’s all part of the Diamond Project, an initiative started by Cubs Charities in 2014 to expand opportunities for youth in underserved communities to play baseball and softball. Morgan Park is among the 45 youth programs that have received a grant from the program.

Morgan Park High baseball player Kyle Radcliffe holds up a check from Cubs Charities’ Diamond Project at Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden / Block Club Chicago

Coach Ernest Radcliffe, who joined the school’s athletic department in 2008, was emotional as he addressed the crowd of family, friends and supporters at the ground breaking ceremony at 1744 W. Pryor Ave.

“Today is one of the most important days of my coaching career. It’s not just a baseball field, but something our school, players, parents and community can be proud of,” Radcliffe said. “So many times we go play at other schools—Mount Carmel, Providence, St. Rita—or we travel out of town and I hear my players say, ‘Coach, look at this field. When will we get something like that at Morgan Park?’ It drove me to work harder and find a way to change our situation, and leave a legacy behind for the next generation of Mustangs.”

Morgan Park’s baseball program has a solid reputation for producing players who eventually land on major league teams. The school has yielded four MLB draft picks, and 95 percent of the team has received baseball scholarships.

“The Chicago Cubs charities and the Chicago Park District really worked to make this happen, so I’m really enthused that we’re about to finally get a field my team can be proud to play on,” Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe, whose son Kyle is attending St. Louis University on a baseball scholarship in the fall, said that he learned of the gift late last year, when Cubs Charities notified him that the school had been selected to receive the donation.

“We always get a ton of applicants for our Diamond Project, and we try to make sure that we’re equitable around the city, but Morgan Park has been a longtime program participant, and their coach has been a longtime supporter of the Cubs, so we had an existing relationship, and they had a great case for rebuilding their field,” said Alicia Gonzales, executive director of Cubs Charities.

Renovations will start in the next few weeks, with the hope that they will be finished in time for the 2020 season.

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