Hall of Fame Major League Baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. admits he gets emotional when speaking at events opening youth development parks.
Ripken, who played all 21 of his seasons in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles, traveled to Prince George’s County on Friday to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation’s 107th park. This particular multi-purpose turf field in Palmer Park is the foundation’s first in the nation on property owned by a police department.
“We couldn’t be more proud of sending police officers to the communities, and now we’re sending communities here to on site with the police officers so they can come and continue that relationship of trust and help to serve,” Ripken said at the ceremony. “This couldn’t have turned out more perfect. It seems like it should’ve been here all along.”
The foundation, named after Ripken’s late father who also coached him and his brother, Billy, in the majos, worked with the Prince George’s County Police Department for at least four years to open the field.
The $1.2 million, 55,000-square-foot youth baseball field includes new bleachers, dugouts, a newly irrigated grass outfield and a synthetic turf infield slated to be used by more than 800 youth annually.
The field at at Group 1001 Park is named after Robert A. Callaway Sr. His son, Robbie Callaway, who grew up near the field and attended school at the former police headquarters when it used to be a junior high school, serves as a Ripken Foundation board member and attended Friday’s ceremony.
The land sits next to the headquarters that relocated to Upper Marlboro. Adjacent to that building remains the police department’s District 3 Landover station.
Police Chief Malik Aziz said the goal will be to transform the old headquarters into a community center and partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington to conduct various activities.
“It’s parks, not quite as good as this one, that affected my life and kept me out of trouble and gave many of my friends a place to go,” he said. “The motto of Prince George’s County Police Department is ‘The first to serve.’ What you don’t see is … that connection builds police and community relations so that first to serve is about a positive, professional police service delivered to all of our residents, especially to our youth.”
Some of those young people include Clorivel Ronualdo-Elonardo, 18, who’s been a member of the county’s Police Athletic League (PAL) since she was 13 years old. She participated in softball and baseball camps playing second base and in the outfield.
She now plays volleyball and will graduate from College Park Academy this year and attend Bowie State University in the fall to study marine biology.
Ronualdo-Elonardo recalls when a relative got into an accident and members of PAL became the first people to support her and her family.
“They showed me how important it is to have unity within your community,” she said.
No games are currently scheduled, but the field can be used as soon as this summer.
“I will be helping out with the baseball program and be a mentor, Ronualdo-Elonardo said. “I can’t wait.”