ST. PETERSBURG – Ya La’ford hits another one out of the park with her newest installation at gate six inside Tropicana Field.
La’ford teamed up with the Rays and their community partner, a local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America last week to create a new mural titled “Pitching Promises.”
Each participant received a sponge baseball dunked it in paint and “pitched” it towards the installation after stating a promise to themselves and to the community out loud. Promises included being truthful, successful, helpful, hardworking and kind.
“It’s a physical manifestation of kids making promises to their bigs (Big Brother or Big Sister), the Rays and the community. How they will make a meaningful impact as they grow up, mature, and become citizens. Anybody can make a promise and fulfill it,” explained Melanie Lentz, Rays vice president of strategy and development.
Unveiled last Friday during MLB’s Jackie Robinson Day, a day that celebrates the life and legacy of a barrier breaking baseball player and civil rights activist.
The day honors his nine core values: Courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment and excellence. All nine values are encompassed in the La’ford’s most recent installation.
The installation is more than a piece of art; it’s meant to instill courage in children to be what they want to be no matter their current situation. Through determination, teamwork and persistence, the children helped create a permanent visual and environmental change that thousands will see over the lifetime of the stadium. Only true commitment to integrity and justice will keep each child focused on fulfilling their promises as citizens, guaranteeing excellence in life.
La’ford said the children she works with make her feel like a superhero. “Working with children like this makes you feel as if you are swooping in with a cape on, you’re showing them that they can do and be anything they want to be. You’re bigger than them, you’re directing them and you’re giving them this experience that they would have never had the opportunity to do, they look up to you.”
Mayor Rick Kriseman reaffirms La’fords superhero-esque contributions to the community. “Ya is an amazing artist and besides just her talent, what she gives to this community, from her time and her service but also how she inspires, her artwork is so inspiring.”
“I wanted them to think about not what’s happening right in front of them but in the future…. if we actually get them to look at their future, that’s when we are really sparking a change and making a difference,” said La’ford.
Inspired by the Rays’ yellow sunburst, La’ford combined her innate artistic ability and her passion for inspiring children to create a piece of interconnectivity and connection.
“This in a lot of ways represents the best that we can do with the Rays, in fulfilling our mission of energizing the community through the magic of Rays Baseball…. I feel the Rays, I feel the energy and I feel interconnectivity,” said Brian Auld team president.
Laura Mulrooney is a reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Victor Langford provided photo on front page.