Stepping Up to the Plate
The new Jake Owen Field will bring the best of baseball to kids who need it most
Jake Owen poses with players. “I have such great memories of playing right next door at Michael Field,” he said. “I learned so much from my coaches, not just about winning but the morals and values they instilled.”
The sun beat down on the crowd that gathered on June 29 to celebrate a labor of love that took a year of planning and a well-kept secret unveiled at just the right time. Award-winning country singer-songwriter and Vero Beach’s favorite son Jake Owen was on hand, along with two famous philanthropic friends, for the opening of Jake Owen Field, which will bring baseball to kids who need it most. Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick combined their foundations’ efforts to make the brand-new synthetic-turf field a reality in the center of Vero Beach next to Michael Field, where Jake grew up playing with his twin brother, Jarrod.
“I’ve had a long time to process this incredible honor since Kevin surprised me at the Grapefruit Open right here in Vero,” Jake said in a speech during the ribbon cutting. “My dad always said if you want to be the best at something, surround yourself with people who are the best at what they do. Cal and Kevin are great in their sports, but they also use their platforms to give back. I’m 36 in October and every day I wake up I learn more about how to be a better person,” he said. “I’m mindful that I have friends like this that think enough of me to donate a field in my name. I can’t wait to see kids playing here.”
The new field will host teams that play in the Cal Ripken League, which started its Badges for Baseball program in cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department to pair cops and kids together to play and learn. The new Jake Owen Field is the 66th field built by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Cal Ripken Jr. is known as “The Iron Man” for starting in 2,632 consecutive games as a star shortstop and second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1980s, breaking Lou Gehrig’s record that stood for half a century. Cal Ripken was on hand for the ceremony. “My dad was all about helping kids, and he used baseball to reach them. He would go into low income neighborhoods to put on clinics and help push them in the right direction. Through the foundation, we have taken that nationwide,” he said. “Baseball is unique because it doesn’t require big guys or tall guys to be good players. It doesn’t discriminate.”