CLEVELAND -- On Friday, as the Indians continued their 11-game road trip in Kansas City, members of the front office were also active on the diamond. Rather than take part in a game, however, they cleaned up the fields at Forest Hill Park in East Cleveland so that the community's youth may play there again.
Approximately 300 volunteers participated in the service project, which was coordinated by BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence and included partnerships with the Indians and such local companies as Key Bank and FOX Sports Ohio. Much of the effort was galvanized by Valencia Kimbrough, the Indians' coordinator of facility maintenance and a native of East Cleveland. She attended Shaw High School, which plays its home baseball games at Forest Hill Park.
"There was a tarp just sitting [in the outfield] that nobody used," Kimbrough said. "The dugouts were falling apart. The field had more weeds on it than it had playing area. The weeds around the outside of the fence line were taller than me.
"My little brother wanted to play baseball, and there was no team for him to play on. They didn't have a team. My son plays pee-wee baseball. We came up here to practice one day and saw how horrible it looked.
Naturally, Kimbrough turned to her employers for support. Rebecca Kodysh, director of community outreach, reached out to BVU, which connected the Indians with a number of volunteers willing to help with the restoration. Soon after, Kimbrough's proposal became a reality, and she found herself picking weeds, raking, and painting dugouts and foul poles alongside a group of people that included everyone from coworkers to Shaw students.
"I was just tired of all the times in the media you always see something negative about East Cleveland. I wanted to bring a positive light," Kimbrough said. "I'm so happy, just from the kids that are all here, knowing they care about this community as much as I do."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.