UCLA announces enhancements to Jackie Robinson Stadium
UCLA announced Wednesday several planned improvements to Jackie Robinson Stadium, including a new state-of-the-art practice infield that will be called Branca Family Field in honor of former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca.
The stadium enhancements, scheduled to begin this summer, will include construction of a new synthetic turf practice infield and bullpen; installation of new sports lighting; and improvements to the parking lot and site utilities.
Branca was a three-time All-Star who embraced former UCLA standout Jackie Robinson upon Robinson’s breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Dodgers, standing on the field beside Robinson on opening day in 1947 while other players refused.
John Branca, Ralph’s nephew and a renowned entertainment attorney and philanthropist who graduated from the UCLA School of Law, has committed $1 million toward the project.
“We are extremely grateful for John Branca’s exceptional vision and philanthropic support,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Branca Family Field being side-by-side with Jackie Robinson Stadium — that significance should not be lost on anyone who knows the story of Ralph’s support and friendship with Jackie.”
Others who have pledged to help the Bruins as part of an additional $3.8-million fundraising campaign include philanthropist Rhodine Gifford, whose $1-million commitment will help elevate the Gifford Sports Complex at Jackie Robinson Stadium that includes the Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility. Jack Gifford, Rhodine’s late husband, was a Bruins basketball player.
UCLA’s athletic department, faced with COVID-19 restrictions and the loss of its contract with Under Armour, posted a 21.7-million deficit for the 2020 fiscal year.
Former Bruins baseball stars Gerrit Cole, Troy Glaus, Brandon Crawford, Chase Utley and Eric Karros have also contributed nearly $1.5 million toward the project. Another unspecified donation described as “substantial” by the school was made in honor of Ann Marie and Dan Guerrero to provide recognition for Guerrero, a former Bruins second baseman and the UCLA athletic director from 2002-2020.
“We are grateful for all who helped to make Branca Family Field within the Gifford Sports Complex a reality,” UCLA baseball coach John Savage said in a statement. “It will certainly enhance the growth and development of Bruin baseball student-athletes for years to come.”
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