|Gleyber Torres giving hitting instructions during the baseball clinic. Provided by New York Yankees.|
On Wednesday, the third day of the Yankees' HOPE Week, the honoree was the reborn Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey, on the 76th anniversary of Paterson native Larry Doby breaking the American League color barrier.
Yankees players Gleyber Torres, Nestor Cortes, and Jose Trevino; Yankees coaches Mike Harkey and Travis Chapman, and baseball operations special advisor Omar Minaya visited Hinchliffe Stadium, and hosted a baseball clinic on the field for local youth teams, the Silk City Bombers and the Paterson Divas. They were joined by Doby's grandson Scott Hurchins, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, and project developer Baye Adofo-Wilson.
|Jose Trevino (center) and Travis Chapman (left) assist youth players at the baseball clinic. Provided by New York Yankees.|
Hinchliffe Stadium opened in 1932, hosted Negro Leagues baseball and countless other games and events, as well as being a hub for the community until it was closed in 1997 and fell into disrepair.
After many years of planning and a $100 million revitalization project, Hinchliffe Stadium reopened this spring with a ribbon cutting on May 19. It serves as the home field for the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Frontier League and provides access to the Paterson Public School District for youth and scholastic sports.
There will soon be the opening of a Museum and Learning Center that will teach the history of Negro League Baseball and the Civil Rights Movement.
|Gleyber Torres poses with players from the Paterson Divas. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Nestor Cortes, Gleyber Torres, and Jose Trevino by the field entrance Negro Leagues players used. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Nestor Cortes with youth players during the clinic. Provided by New York Yankees.|
At the conclusion of the event, the Yankees presented a $10,000 donation to the facility to further the educational goals of the Museum and Learning Center.
|Provided by New York Yankees.|
At Yankee Stadium, ahead of the Yankees' game against the Baltimore Orioles, Doby's daughter Susan Robinson and grandson Scott Hutchins threw out ceremonial first pitches. Hinchliffe Stadium received the President's Volunteer Service Award, which is given by AmeriCorps.
|Larry Doby's grandson Scott Hutchins and daughter Susan Robinson after their first pitches. Provided by New York Yankees.|
HOPE WEEK HONOREE: HINCHLIFFE STADIUM
For over 65 years, Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey, was a hub for bringing the community together. Sitting atop Paterson's Great Falls, the venue had served as a home for high school and professional football, soccer, boxing, racing, music and theater, and most importantly, Negro League Baseball. Professional ballplayers such as Larry Doby, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Babe Ruth, along with boxers Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis, and entertainers Duke Ellington, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are among the illustrious names that once appeared at Hinchliffe since the stadium opened its doors in 1932.
Despite a rich history that stretched over six decades, Hinchliffe closed in 1997, and over the subsequent years, the abandoned venue began to deteriorate. After years of neglect, it became an eyesore for residents, and many feared the stadium would be demolished.
"When [residents] looked outside the window, what they saw was decay and decline. They have no knowledge of what this once was," said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh.
Fears of demolition were curbed in 2013 when the stadium officially received landmark status. But Sayegh, along with Paterson native Baye Adofo-Wilson, wanted to do more. The duo shared a common goal to resurrect Hinchliffe Stadium.
That goal turned into a roughly $100 million project with Adofo-Wilson serving as developer. The effort included not only a full renovation to the park, but also the construction of an affordable housing apartment complex for individuals age 55-and-up, a parking garage, daycare center, restaurant and museum honoring the history of the Negro Leagues and Civil Rights.
"A challenge for a lot of urban areas is imagining it can be different than what it is. You need to have imagination and belief. How do we imagine living differently? And what steps can you take to do it? That's what this project is about," Adofo-Wilson said. "When I was growing up, Hinchliffe Stadium was the center of culture and sports. It was really the center of town."
Hinchliffe will now serve as the home venue of the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Frontier League, and the Paterson Public School District will also have access to the stadium 180 days a year for youth and scholastic sports. The children from neighboring Paterson Public School No. 5 (K-6) will be able to use the field for recess and gym class.
The Yankees' visit to Hinchliffe was planned to coincide with the 76th anniversary of when Baseball Hall of Famer and Paterson native Larry Doby made his Major League debut, breaking the American League color barrier on July 5, 1947. It will be a fitting tribute, considering Doby's playing days at Hinchliffe began when he was in high school, long before the start of his distinguished baseball career.
"My father would never speak about his baseball career when I was a kid," said Larry Doby Jr. "He would always talk about playing football at Hinchliffe on Thanksgiving Day when the whole town came out to see them play. It was to the point that I didn't want to hear it anymore. Those were his fondest memories. I know how important [Hinchliffe] was to my dad."
"This stadium will once again become a focal point for this great city," said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. "Hinchliffe is not just a ballfield - it's New Jersey's Field of Dreams."