DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Daytona Tortugas today announced plans to revive Kelly Field, a history-rich baseball diamond where Jackie Robinson trained while preparing to break professional baseball's color barrier.The Tortugas and their Tortugas Care Foundation are committed to bringing baseball back to the site -- which today is an empty
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Daytona Tortugas today announced plans to revive Kelly Field, a history-rich baseball diamond where Jackie Robinson trained while preparing to break professional baseball's color barrier.
The Tortugas and their Tortugas Care Foundation are committed to bringing baseball back to the site -- which today is an empty and silent patch of grass in Daytona Beach's Midtown neighborhood -- while raising awareness of its illustrious history and importance to the social fabric of baseball in America.
Robinson and his Montreal Royals teammates trained at Kelly Field in 1946 before Robinson made history by playing in the first integrated professional baseball game a few miles away at then-City Island Ballpark, which has since been renamed in Robinson's honor. While his white teammates rode into and out of the Midtown neighborhood each day by bus from their hotel, Robinson and John Wright, his African-American teammate, stayed in private homes near the field and walked.
Other baseball greats who played at Kelly Field include Daytona Beach's own World Series champion Ed Charles as well as Hall of Famers such as Satchel Paige, Larry Doby and Roy Campanella. Kelly Field also once hosted games for Bethune-Cookman University and served as a center of social life in the predominately black neighborhood.
In keeping with Kelly Field's history of providing access to the game of baseball, the Tortugas will create a ballfield on the grounds that is readily accessible to the surrounding community. The organization also plans to create a permanent display honoring the field's history to inspire the next generation of barrier breakers and World Series champions from Daytona Beach. In addition, the Tortugas plan to supply sporting equipment and regular community engagement programming at the site, which is near the intersection of George Engram Boulevard and Keech Street behind the Midtown Cultural & Educational Center. Work on the project will begin as soon as public health allows.
The Tortugas chose to make the announcement today in recognition of Jackie Robinson Day, the annual celebration that marks the date he made his major league debut.
"Bob Fregolle, Rick French and I are as proud of this initiative as anything we've undertaken together in owning this hallowed ballclub," said Reese Smith III on behalf of the Tortugas ownership group. "To be able to honor the history of Negro league baseball, Jackie Robinson's role within it, and the many baseball legends who paved the way for diversity and inclusion at the Major League level is something we are immensely proud."
The Tortugas had initially planned to break ground on the new field today in honor of Jackie Robinson Day across Major and Minor League Baseball but with the season on hold the ground-breaking has been postponed until a later date this summer with the hopes of turning the field over to the community for programming in 2021. The team and its foundation have released a video that explains the history of the field and its historical significance to professional baseball. The video is being shared today across the team's social media channels.