Fundraiser to benefit baseball complex

Pine Bluff native and Detroit Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter is teaming alongside Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and Arkansas-Pine Bluff to host Homeruns and Heroes, a fundraiser aimed at raising funds to complete construction at the Torii Hunter Baseball, Softball and Little League Complex on the campus of UAPB.

The fundraiser is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock. Joining Hunter and Governor Beebe will be Benton native and current Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee.

UAPB baseball head coach Carlos James said the fundraiser was originally scheduled to be held at the Pine Bluff Country Club but “thanks to a little intervening,” the governor opened the Mansion.

“And during one of our planning meets, Cliff Lee’s wife just happened to walk in and offered to volunteer her services,” James said. “It’s been an amazing thing.”

According to UAPB’s website, once the facility is complete “it is projected that the 520-seat Torii Hunter Complex will have an annual impact of nearly $1.30 million (to the local economy) resulting from tournaments/championship games, summer leagues, and the coveted Junior Babe Ruth World Series.”

UAPB athletic director Lonza Hardy said completing the complex will not only be a benefit for the Golden Lions and the Lady Lions but will also serve the youths of the Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.

“This facility is not just an athletic complex,” Hardy said. “It is more than that. It is a chance for us to reach out to the community.

“… Exposing our young people to campus life. Give our young people their first opportunity to set foot on a college campus.

“That is one of the great things that is going to happen at this complex.”

The revenue generated from the event will help make it possible to finish Phase II and Phase III construction at the complex.

The final phase of construction will allow the baseball stadium to seat more than 500 fans including box seats, a press box, VIP suites and a concessions stand.

The Homeruns and Heroes event is just one of many fundraisers scheduled for 2014 in order to generate revenue for UAPB and the complex.

“We are planning to have several other fundraisers but our goal for this particular fundrasier is to raise about $100,000,” Hardy said. “And we are going to do that through the ticket sales, the silent action and other sponsorships.

“I think it is very much attainable goal.”

James said as of Friday, there are only about 30 tickets left.

In addition to receiving a memento of an autographed baseball, all ticket purchasers will have the opportunity to bid at silent auction on memorabilia, jewelry, and tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals game with perks.

“This like a kickoff to get people involved and hopefully help us complete the stadium,” James said.

James said the chair back seats and bleachers will be put in as early as next week and the rest of the construction should be completed in time for the 2015 season.

“Hopefully the other construction will be completed by next summer,” James said. “It is a pretty quick timeline.”

UAPB baseball players will also be at the event as volunteers.

“We get to serve that night and be apart of the event,” James said. “We want to create some relationships with people in town and in the state that like baseball so hopefully they come down to some of our games.”

Hardy said the completion of the complex will also help draw in larger colleges and universities to play UAPB as well as their fans.

“It will be a boost to (Pine Bluff’s) economy,” Hardy said. “Because they will stay at our hotels and eat at our restaurants.

“This complex will ignite the economy of the Pine Bluff area.”

Tickets are $400 per person and can be purchased via www.uapb.edu/heroes or by calling the Office of University Relations and Development at 575-8701.