Rangers dedicate Youth Academy field in honor of Johnny Oates

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A field at the Rangers Youth Academy in West Dallas was dedicated in honor of former Rangers manager Johnny Oates at a ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

The field is now called Oates Field presented by Papa John’s.

The field originally opened in 1999 under the name Johnny Oates Youth Ballpark. As part of the construction of the new Rangers MLB Youth Academy, the field is being renovated and reconfigured as a professional-sized field with a seating capacity of 750.

Oates managed the Rangers from 1995 until 2001, guiding the team to its first three division titles. His uniform number, 26, is one of two numbers retired by the team.

Two of Oates’ former players, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Will Clark, attended the ceremony, along with Oates’ wife, Gloria.

“(Johnny) would be thrilled because he loved the game of baseball so much and he loved children so much,” said Gloria Oates. “To see the opportunity that is going to happen here is just incredible.”

The field and the under-construction Youth Academy are located near the intersection of Hampton Road and Bickers Street in West Dallas. The Rangers and Papa John’s hope the fields will help underprivileged and at-risk youth stay involved in sports.

”Keeping the kids in sports is the best thing that we can do,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what we’re doing with this facility in this area, so that parents can bring their kids here and play the game.”

Papa John’s is contributing $150,000 to the renovations and will match fan donations up to $50,000 toward the Youth Academy throughout the 2016 season.

"The Oates Field is more than just a baseball field; it is a classroom for teaching responsibility, discipline, perseverance and teamwork. At-risk youth will be born into leaders on this field," said Steve McNeil, vice president of operations at Papa John's. "Papa John's whole-heartedly supports the work of the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and the mission of the MLB Youth Academy."

Construction of the Youth Academy is expected to be complete in the spring of 2017.