Darryl Strawberry recalls L.A. roots
BET will mark the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's major league debut Sunday with a documentary that both celebrates the legacy of inner-city baseball and laments its current state.
"Harvard Park," premiering at 11 a.m., is far longer than it needs to be at two hours. But it is an interesting look at a field in South Central Los Angeles that in the 1980s and early '90s became home of "The Program," in which players from major league stars to local wannabes worked out in the offseason under challenging circumstances
For example: Rather than use a screen to protect batting practice pitchers, "The Program" employed garbage cans.
Executive producers Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis, two of the workouts' leaders, talk poignantly about the symbolic importance of returning to their community, and of the character-building benefits of less-than-ideal conditions.
"Harvard Park taught us how to have toughness, how to have failure, how to be successful," Strawberry said.
These days more soccer than baseball is played at Harvard Park, and more basketball and football than baseball is played among young African-Americans.
"The demise of the black player in Major League Baseball as well as minor league baseball has hit an all-time low," Davis said. "I think the timing was perfect for us to move forward on this project to bring awareness there is a problem."