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The J receives grant for field renovation: Expansion allows for new partnership with Kansas City Christian School and softball for girls

A rendering of the renovated baseball field at The J, which is expected to be complete by summer 2018.

It’s a home run for The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City (The J)!

Thanks to a $235,000 grant from Baseball Tomorrow Fund and a partnership with Kansas City Christian School (KCC), The J is expanding one of its baseball fields, increasing capacity and allowing for the addition of girls softball to its programming. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is a joint initiative of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The expanded field, located on the southeast corner of the Jewish Community Campus, will allow The J to convert its largest baseball field into an all-synthetic turf field capable of hosting one regulation baseball game or up to three youth games simultaneously. With this expansion, the facility will become the home field for KCC’s high school baseball program beginning in 2018.

Renovation on The J’s field is anticipated to begin in late fall with projected completion by the start of the 2018 youth softball/baseball season.

“The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is proud to support the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City,” said Cathy Bradley, executive director of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. “On behalf of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, we thank The J for its continued efforts to provide quality programs and facilities in the community and for its interest in growing the game by creating new opportunities for young baseball and softball players.”

This new partnership with KCC furthers The J’s interfaith collaboration within the Kansas City metro area.

“Collaboration with other organizations is an objective we continually promote with our staff and management team, and it is so gratifying to see partnerships like this reach new heights,” said Jim Sluyter, The J’s President and CEO.

As part of this new partnership, KCC is contributing financially to the field project. KCC will use the renovated field primarily during after-school hours from February to May, with minimal overlap expected with The J’s programming.

“We are very excited to partner in this creative way with The J and Major League Baseball. Kansas City Christian is constantly working to provide additional opportunities for our students, and this efficient utilization of resources will benefit both our students and the community,” said Todd Zylstra, KCC Head of School.

The J has offered the community its youth baseball programs for much of its more than 100-year history. Currently, The J serves more than 2,000 players in a spring/summer league, a fall league and through various camps and clinics. With the reconfiguration of its field and addition of a turf surface, The J’s Sports and Recreation department will begin offering girls softball starting with the 2018 season. The J will absorb the Girls Club of Johnson County Softball program that will no longer be in operation after this season.

“The department has wanted to add a girls sport to The J’s programming, and now the timing is right to move forward,” said Bob Hennecke, The J’s Sports and Recreation coordinator.

Girls softball has been taking on an increasing importance, and growing visibility, during the past few years, and The Jewish Community Center is proud to now be highly involved in this trend. The J anticipates that 300-400 girls will be participating in this softball program next season.

“We are thrilled to extend our programming by adding girls softball to our already substantial list of offerings. In offering this sport, we hope to continue to expand our reach in the entire greater Kansas City community,” Sluyter said.

The J’s Sports and Recreation staff carefully planned the field’s design. The expanded field will have backstops added to each of the two corners joining the current main backstop. With the redesign, it will be possible to play up to five games simultaneously, rather than the current three-game scenario.

The J applied for the grant from Baseball Tomorrow Fund. The J already has a partnership with professional baseball. For the third consecutive year, The J joined with Kansas City Royals’ General Manager Dayton Moore’s “C” You in the Major Leagues Foundation, hosting its Youth Baseball Camp. With 115 participants, the sell-out camp utilized The J’s fields and baseball facilities. The J is hopeful that the expanded baseball/softball field will allow this collaboration to grow.  

The J is still accepting in-kind and monetary contributions for its programs and facilities. Those interested in donating to the project may contact Cindy Bodker, The J’s development director, at 913-981-8807.