Hyde-Park Kenwood Legends

Hyde Park-Kenwood Legends little league team cuts the ribbon on new baseball diamond.

Officials with the Hyde Park-Kenwood (HPK) Legends Baseball League were all smiles on Saturday as they cut the ribbon on a newly renovated baseball diamond. 

The diamond was unveiled at Kenwood Community Park, 1330 E. 50th St., completing a nearly three-year project to renovate all four of the park’s baseball fields.

“This is a long time coming,” said 4th Ward chief of staff Prentice Butler. “After two years of not being outside and not enjoying spring activities, we’re finally back. We are fortunate in this area to have these collaborations where we have a lot of people and residents involved that want to see their community improve.”  

Ald. Sophia King, who could not attend the ceremony, also sent a virtual congratulations to everyone at the ribbon cutting.

Plans for renovations began in 2018, when HPK Legends President Chris Stinson and the team’s board sought grant funding from Cubs Charities, the philanthropic arm of the Chicago Cubs. 

Through their Diamond Project capital grants, Cubs Charities provides “funds and equipment to nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations that support baseball and softball leagues.”

Denied at first, Stinson was undeterred, and after applying twice received $200,000 in grants to rehab the fields and pitching mounds, as well as install new dugout benches, water pumps and hoses. Ald. King’s office and the park advisory council also contributed $25,000 to the final field.

“People say no or decline, (but) it’s how you come back,” Stinson said. “Cubs Charities wanted to make sure that (we’re) engaged for the long run, and I am engaged for the long run.”

Gearing up for their 44th season, the HPK legends  — who offer tee ball through competitive level travel teams—  are the primary reason the field became a reality.  

“It’s kind of emotional and brings a tear to my eye,” said HPK Legends head coach Daniel Luster. “Baseball brings out the brightest of people. When families see baseball in the park, they want to come out and see what’s going on. They see that kids are having fun, smiling, and laughing. That’s all that matters.”

The Kenwood Community Park fields are among at least 10 other field renovations the Diamond Project is unveiling this year. One such project is Englewood’s Lindblom Park, which received $300,000 in grant funding and finished in March.

Since 2014, the nonprofit has committed almost $10 million to field renovation projects throughout the city, as well as more than $1 million in equipment and operational costs for 78 little league softball and baseball teams.

Though renovations were a long time coming, supporters say the Kenwood Park project was worth the wait, benefiting the HPK Legends and surrounding community. 

“Our mission is to build teamwork and development,” said Stinson. “It’s a place where (people) can bring their children, nieces and nephews. We do have other people coming from other places to play here, and we don’t turn them away… “It’s not always about baseball. They build friendships and bonds, it brings memories.”

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