SESSER — The president of Cardinal Nation traveled Tuesday to Sesser for the formal dedication of a youth baseball field built because Cardinals Care.
St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III was among those in attendance at the dedication of Lance Berkman Field in the Sesser Sports Complex.
Dedicating a youth field is “always a fun day,” DeWitt said. “There is something about dedicating a field that holds so much hope and promise.”
The professionally designed field comes with two paved and covered dugouts, bleachers, fencing and a solar-powered scoreboard and was largely funded by Cardinals Care, the St. Louis Cardinals community foundation.
Built on land donated by the city, the $250,000 field is home to the approximately 120 members of the Sesser Redbird Rookies, a program the Sesser Junior Baseball and Softball organization has been affiliated with since 2006.
“It started out of necessity,” the Sesser organization’s president John Launius said. “Our league grew to over 300 kids. We didn’t have enough equipment, facilities, anything.”
The organization applied for a Cardinals Care grant to purchase equipment about eight years ago.
“From there, the relationship grew and a few years later we became involved with Redbird Rookies,” he said.
The Redbird Rookies program, funded by Cardinals players, fans and ownership and local businesses, provides uniforms and equipment for some 4,500 children in Illinois and Missouri who might not otherwise have the opportunity to play.
“No child, ages 9 and under, in Sesser has to pay anything,” Launius said.
The Redbird Rookies program also supports participants in the areas of health, education, mentoring and the cultural arts.
Several Sesser teams have played at Busch Stadium and some have received computers for their participation in a reading program.
The Rookies program has sponsored a number of activities including health fairs and bicycle helmet fittings and has given away school supplies and Cardinals tickets.
“It teaches the kids the value of sportsmanship and teamwork,” Sesser’s Redbird Rookies coordinator Audra Bates said. “They learn that if they try something and it doesn’t go right, they should try again.”
Team members and their families showed up for the formal dedication of the field, named in honor of Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman.
While Berkman was unable to attend the ceremony, DeWitt said the six-time All-Star is “thrilled he is able to leave his mark in the community.”
On Twitter: @beckymalkovich