LOS ANGELES — Grabbing their gloves and walking out onto the baseball field still takes some getting used to for 17-year-old Melissa Perez and 12-year-old Katherine Rios "because we never had anything like this and it’s all new to us," Perez said.
The field they walked out onto at the Boys & Girls club of William Meade — to them — is straight out of a dream.
“I literally couldn’t believe it," Perez said. "I did not expect it to be something like that. I expected something less, but I loved the outcome of it.”
Over the last year, the baseball field underwent a complete transformation thanks to Tiffany Rubin and the Dodgers Foundation. The project was part of the 2020 All-Star Legacy program meant to be carried out when Dodger Stadium played host to the All-Star game that year.
“This open space was unplayable," Rubin said. "Kids were not able to use the field, not able to play.”
And though the 2020 MLB All-Star game in Los Angeles was cancelled due to the pandemic, the group stuck to its promise and delivered a brand-new field and All-Star teen center.
“The point of the dream fields is to make it feel like there is a mini stadium in your backyard," Rubin explained. "We want to make sure kids, whatever zip code they are in, that they have a field they can take pride in.”
And it’s especially important in a community like this.
The Homes at William Meade are located just two miles away from Dodger stadium, and are home to over 400 low income families.
As Marisela Ocampo, the director of housing services at HACLA, walks through the community, she’s uniquely aware that something like this was and is still needed.
“The youth in this community, especially during this pandemic, has been having a lot of struggles," Ocampo said. "In our community we have a lot of families who are food insecure, health insecure.”
Plus, without funding from the Dodgers Foundation and help from the Boys & Girls club, the new field wouldn’t have been possible at all.
"I mean we do the best with the funding we do receive but a lot of times what does get left on the side are integral things like this in sports and education,” Ocampo said.
Fortunately, though, this time the effort took center field — a relief to kids like Rios and Perez, who now get to feel the thrill of hitting the ball on a dream field.
And to Perez, who’s less of the sports buff, it’s just an important reminder that their neighbors in the Dodgers do care about them.
“I know there’s a lot of people who can’t have something like this and for us to have it, it makes us feel like we matter just like everyone else," she said.