By Kathy Chouteau
An effort is underway to rename Nicholl Park’s Baseball Diamond #2 in honor of Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
A proposal by Councilmember Nat Bates included on the Richmond City Council’s March 1 agenda requests a public hearing to receive public comment on renaming the field to Willie Mays Baseball Field, as well as adoption of a resolution to that end.
Mays, whose baseball career included many years playing center field for the San Francisco/New York Giants, participated in annual March of Dimes charitable events at Nicholl Park for a decade. His visits to Richmond also included collaborating with fellow baseball players to work with Little League teams, according to the agenda materials.
Richmond’s Recreation and Parks Commission received a report from the Willie Mays Field Committee at its Dec. 6, 2021 meeting to approve the establishment of a Willie Mays Day and to rename Baseball Diamond #2 after the baseball great, according to agenda materials. The Commission approved the request—after the effort received support from several neighborhood councils and speakers—and recommended it be advanced to the Richmond City Council for approval.
Prior to the current effort to rename the ballpark, Charles Cavness made a request in June 2015 to nominate Mays for a “Recognition of Heroes” at Nicholl Park, per agenda materials.
Community supporters of the current effort include: The Park Plaza Neighborhood Council; Pullman Neighborhood Council; Laurel Park Neighborhood Council; North and East Neighborhood Council; Hilltop Neighborhood Council; and The South Side Improvement Group Plus One.
Costs associated with the effort, including replacing signage at Nicholl Park, as well as updating the website, are described as minimal by City staff and are included in the Parks and Landscaping operational budget, according to agenda documents.
Pending approval of the proposed resolution, agenda documents note that staff will work with the Recreation and Parks Commission to organize Willie Mays Day in May of 2022 while updating City Council on its progress.
During his 22-season Major League Baseball career, Mays—also known as the “Say Hey Kid”—spent the majority of his time playing for the New York/San Francisco Giants. He also played for the New York Mets, in addition to the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Baseball League; he is considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
Link to Willie Mays Photo via Flickr here.