It hasn't been easy for the Houston Astros having the worst record in baseball while struggling toward respectability. Off the field though, team owner Jim Crane has just hit a grand slam. With the help of Mayor Annise Parker, he's developed the Community Leaders Program, partnering with Houston-based corporations to refurbish Houston city parks and revitalize youth baseball in the Bayou City.
Mayor Annise Parker:
"Jim Crane came to me and said, 'I want to do something for youth baseball and softball in the city of Houston and I wanna give back, to show that I'm in this for the long haul with the Astros.' I jumped on that and it's just a wonderful thing. There are a lot of things that the city provides, but it's been a really tough budget time over the last few years and this will be a tremendous asset to the city and a great gift."
Houston Parks Director Joe Turner says it was a deal that they just couldn't pass up.
"We're normally out looking for partners. He came to us to partner, and came with this program to upgrade our youth fields with corporations, and also give us some assistance on the maintenance of those fields long term. What more could you ask for?"
Crane says some of his fondest memories growing up came from a baseball park.
"It meant a lot to me, not only to try and help some kids have that experience, but to give something back to the community, and the key is to get the big companies involved. We got a lot of strong companies in town, and we're not gonna stop here. We're gonna continue to grow this program, and hopefully we can do more and more and more parks, and really get something that no other city in the United States has been able to do."
Crane and 12 corporate partners in the Community Leaders program will ultimately invest $18 million dollars to the city over the next 5 years.