Jason Heyward’s busy offseason continued as the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of his new baseball academy at the North Austin Center, a 10-acre campus for education, sports and wellness on Chicago’s West Side.
The $35 million facility has a Major League-sized infield and will provide sports training and leadership development programs for local kids and their families.
In addition to the indoor field, the 120,000-square foot space features Chicago Fire FC Field — the city’s largest indoor turf field — as well as classrooms, an auditorium and two full size basketball courts.
Although he no longer plays for the Chicago Cubs, Heyward is expected to hire coaches for the program and help organize tournaments for travel baseball clubs.
It’s here! The Jason Heyward Baseball Academy is officially open! 👏 #exceling pic.twitter.com/GCUohNXhQo
— excel baseball (@excel_baseball) February 3, 2023
Heyward hopes the academy not only introduces young children to baseball, but is optimistic it will encourage more Black players to take an interest in the sport.
After spending the last seven seasons with the Cubs, Heyward signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers that includes an invitation to MLB Spring Training.
After a successful 2020 season, the 33-year-old hit just .211/.280/.326 with 20 doubles, three triples, nine home runs and 40 RBI in 152 games over the past two years.
The Cubs released Heyward last November despite still owing him $22 million for the final season of his eight-year deal.
Freddie Freeman believes Jason Heyward has ‘a lot’ to contribute to Dodgers
Heyward signing with the Dodgers reunited him with longtime friend and former Atlanta Braves teammate Freddie Freeman. Both were selected by the team in the 2007 MLB Draft and spent five seasons together.
“I believe a lot,” Freeman answered when asked how much Heyward is capable of contributing to the Dodgers. “I’ve known him since I was 16 years old. I know what’s in there, I know he’s got a lot to prove.
“He’s got a little chip on his shoulder. I know he wants to come in and compete for a job. I hit with him, and it’s a very nice sound coming off the bat. He looks really good.
“He made some adjustments in his swing, his hands are a lot more quiet, and I think he’s going to be able to get to the ball a lot easier. He just looks so relaxed and comfortable with the adjustments he made. I’m hoping for a big spring from him and he gets on our team.”
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