Now this is the type of news that I absolutely LOVE to see! Jacksonville’s City Council, by a vote of 19-0, has agreed to rename the historic ballpark in the Durkeeville neighborhood of northwest Jacksonville in honor of Hank Aaron, who played for the Jacksonville Braves of the Sally League in 1953. The ballpark will now be known as “Henry L. Aaron Field at J.P. Small Memorial Stadium.”
For those who haven’t had a chance to visit the ballpark yet, J.P. Small Memorial Park is one of the last ballparks still standing that was home to a Negro League team – the Jacksonville Red Caps of the Negro American League. The ballpark has been renovated a number of times and continues to host local HS and college teams. It has a statue dedicated to the legendary Buck O’Neill and it even has a museum dedicated to Jacksonville baseball history. Jacksonville’s minor league teams played there before relocating to Wolfson Park in the 1950s. The ballpark is an absolute gem. You can read more about the park in this Ballpark Digest article here.
The city and the local baseball community need to do whatever it can to ensure the continued upkeep and viability of the ballpark, and to help tell its story to future generations of baseball fans. I think it would be great if the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp were to use one of their Mondays off this season – and every season thereafter – to have a public workout at the ballpark where they could have BP, take infield, interact with fans, have exhibits/games/fun stuff for kids, and open the ballpark and museum for everyone to see. Imagine the publicity that would bring? Do it in conjunction with the annual Jax Red Caps game (this year, it’s July 24) and make it a big event. Charge a small admission for entrance with proceeds going to ballpark maintenance and to the Negro League Baseball Museum to help preserve the legacy of Negro League ballplayers in Jacksonville.
This is something we can all get behind. Let’s make sure this special piece of Jacksonville baseball history remains in the spotlight for years to come.