LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers owner Frank McCourt knew after one conversation at Camelback Ranch this spring how important it was that the club get involved.
The Los Angeles Unified School District was facing budget cuts that threatened to cut 14 competitive sports programs across 72 schools until Thursday morning, when the Dodgers Dream Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, the LA84 Foundation and others announced they had raised more than $1.4 million to pay coaches' stipends for the 2010-11 school year.
"This is the future, this is the future of our city, the future of our country," said McCourt, who spoke alongside LAUSD students in a downtown gymnasium. "You look in the eyes of these young athletes, you see the fire, the passion, you know they're going to achieve great things."
It was in Spring Training, when McCourt hosted Weingart president Fred Ali and chairman of the board Steve Soboroff, that LAUSD's funding issues came to his attention.
"They mentioned that this issue existed with the school system and this huge void financially that would prevent their coaches from being paid, and they asked if we would consider being helpful," McCourt said. "We said right then and there, 'Count us in,' and that we would make some calls as well to others to get them involved. Let's see if we can't just save baseball and football, but the entire system."
Not only will baseball, softball, football and basketball continue on this year, so too will sports like aquatics, golf and volleyball. According to LA84 Foundation president Anita DeFrantz, a group dedicated to the development of youth sports and named after the 1984 Summer Olympic games that visited Los Angeles, more than 35,000 students would have been affected had the Dodgers Dream Foundation and other benefactors not stepped up.
There was a reality McCourt looked at in the baseball world, as well: where would some of the great Major League talent that came up through the LAUSD be if not for their high schools?
"How about current Dodger Garret Anderson, or Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, or Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson?" McCourt said. "That's just a sample of the names of the individuals that got their start right here in L.A. So take a look at those faces, for those kids, shouldn't they have the same chance to follow in those footsteps?"
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.