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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

A dozen city baseball fields will receive some attention, as will Parker the Rally Pig.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels announced Wednesday at the Hippodrome Theater that they are launching a Smooch-A-Pig campaign designed to finance the renovation of 12 city fields through the fundraising of 10 ambassadors.

The ambassador who raises the most money for the project will kiss Parker the Rally Pig, a Squirrels' mascot, at home plate at The Diamond before the Squirrels' July 17 game vs. Harrisburg.

Dugouts will be built at the city fields, and their playing surfaces will be upgraded. The Squirrels have set a fundraising goal of $750,000 for the four-year operation. Eventually, the Henderson Complex near John Marshall High School will be developed into a Little League complex with a concession building, and other fields may be renovated.

"We all know there's been a huge emphasis on expanding baseball in the inner cities all over the country," said Dr. Norman C. Merrifield, Richmond's director of parks, recreation and community facilities.

Richmond has more than 50 baseball fields, according to Merrifield, and many have not been maintained because of funding issues. The Squirrels asked what they could do to make a difference, Merrifield said, and the Smooch-A-Pig campaign was born, or repackaged.

"Like most good ideas we have, we steal them from other people," said Chuck Domino, the Squirrels' chief executive manager. The Double-A Reading franchise has used a comparable fundraising model for about 15 years, according to Domino.

The Squirrels' campaign will begin March 25. A new set of ambassadors will be named each of the next three years. Additionally, the Squirrels will hold Celebrity Big Glove Boxing Matches on May 17 at The Diamond with proceeds benefiting the Smooch-A-Pig Campaign.

Domino addressed whether the timing of the project's announcement is related to the proposal of Mayor Dwight C. Jones to develop Shockoe Bottom and build a ballpark there.

"This is a Flying Squirrels' initiative. This has nothing to do with a new stadium," Domino said. "We're doing this whether we have a new stadium or we're at The Diamond for a much longer period of time, whatever that may be."

Fields scheduled to be upgraded: Battery Park (2000 Fendall Ave.);Bellmeade (1800 Lynhaven Ave.); Bill Robinson (701 N. 37th St.); Blackwell (16th and Everett streets); Calhoun (436 Calhoun St.); Chandler (201 E. Brookland Park Blvd.); Hotchkiss (two fields, 701 E. Brookland Park Blvd.); Lucks Field (Rodgers and T streets); Powhatan (5051 Northampton Ave.); and Westover (two fields, 1301 Jahnke Road).

Smooch-A-Pig participants: Kim Scheeler (Greater Richmond Chamber president and CEO); Jack and Melissa (103.7 River); Latrell Scott (Virginia State football coach); Jon Bibbs (Richmond prep school administrator); Dan Schmitt (RMC Events president); Barry Moore (Volvo of Midlothian); Cla Meredith (former major league pitcher); Norman Way (Puritan Cleaners director of operations); Matt DiNardo (WRICmeteorologist); and Lisa Watkins (Coca-Cola east region key account development manager).

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March 7, 2014




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