A groundbreaking ceremony will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday (May 12) for Foundry Field, a proposed public-access baseball field designed to celebrate the Foundry Giants and other underrepresented baseball teams from South Bend’s past. The event at Southeast Park in South Bend will feature free food, games and prizes for the public.
Foundry Field is a collaborative community project led by the Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation, the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, the Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center and the City of South Bend Venues Parks and Arts.
The project’s four primary objectives are to increase interest in baseball through programming, history, art and public access; increase access to baseball through partnerships with the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County and the South Bend Community School Corp.; revitalize the Southeast Neighborhood, a largely working-class neighborhood south of downtown; and preserve and promote underrepresented teams and individuals from South Bend’s baseball and softball history.
“In collaboration with our community partners, we want to make this more than just a baseball field. We want this to be a living museum and a place of advocacy,” said Clinton Carlson, an associate professor of design at Notre Dame who is helping to coordinate the project. “It’s not just about the history of these teams. Ultimately, our goal is that these histories become powerful stories that impact our community to be more inclusive, more equitable and more accessible for everyone.”
As proposed, the field will feature a full-size diamond bordered by the elevated railroad tracks at the southeast corner of Southeast Park. It will include a grass infield, dirt base paths, a net-and-steel-pole backstop, an irrigation system and a living hedge outfield fence. Future additions may include a covered vintage grandstand, covered dugouts, a scorebooth with a PA system and a public pavilion. The field will be home to the South Bend-based Sappy Moffitt Baseball League, an adult recreational league, and will also be used for youth baseball through the school corporation and the Boys & Girls Clubs.
In addition to the field, the project calls for a series of murals and historical markers along the left and center field walls (technically, the retaining wall on the south side of the elevated tracks) that tell the story of the Foundry Giants and other teams and individuals important to South Bend baseball and softball history. Additional information and materials will be available on the Foundry Field website.
Students in Assistant Teaching Professor Katherine Walden’s fall 2022 Baseball and America course led historical research on the Giants.
“Learning is most impactful when students are able to put the conversations we’re having into context, and research is going to be most transformative when it’s done in community,” Walden said. “This class and this project represent the best of all those worlds in so many ways. It was deeply moving to see students recognize that and make those connections through their work.”
The murals will be completed as part of a series of one-week artist residencies, starting with Denver-based artist, innovator and educator Thomas “Detour” Evans, whose work includes a Jackie Robinson mural in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a Baltimore Orioles mural in Baltimore.
Evans will be working at the site this week to complete the Foundry Giants mural and to interact with students from the Boys & Girls Clubs, Riley High School and the Notre Dame design program, who will be contributing to sections of the mural adorning part of the center field wall. Evans will also be on-hand at the groundbreaking to visit with organizers, students and community members.
Active during the 1920s, the Giants were a predominantly Black baseball team whose players typically worked in the Studebaker Foundry. The team included several players who went on to play in the Negro Leagues.
The Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to develop Foundry Field with support from the Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns; Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority; South Bend Venues, Parks and Arts; South Bend Community School Corp.; Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center; Southeast Organized Area Residents; and The History Museum. It is associated with the Sappy Moffitt Baseball League, an adult, wood-bat baseball league established in 2013.
For more information, visit foundryfield.org.