TAMPA — The childhood home of local baseball legend Al Lopez Sr. in Ybor City stands as a symbol of Tampa’s contribution to more than 125 years of baseball, and next spring the Lopez house will become a showplace to honor the Hall of Famer and more than 80 other Major League ballplayers who were born and raised here.
Earlier this month, construction workers with general contractors Diaz Fritz Isabel launched renovations at the Lopez house at 2003 N. 19th St. They plan to convert the house to a single-room baseball museum by March.
“It’s challenging to pull together a renovation they are doing in three months,” said Elizabeth McCoy, curator with the Ybor City Museum Society. “It’s ambition.”
It also requires money and a collection of local baseball memorabilia to showcase Tampa’s baseball culture and the legendary players, coaches and teams that have been instrumental to the city’s importance to the sport.
The museum society recently sought the help of a Tampa-based online fundraising company in an effort to reach the organizaion’s $250,000 capital campaign goal to receive a matching preservation grant from Hillsborough County.
Tony DeSisto, co-founder of Citizinvestor, a Web-based crowd-funding platform for civic projects, said his company is spearheading a drive to help the museum society raise $125,000 in 90 days. The campaign ends Feb. 11.
The website targets civic-minded individuals who like to support community projects.
The crowd-funding platform is one way the museum society collects money to build the museum, McCoy said. The museum also seeks grants, accepts in-kind donations and solicits donations on the Tampa Baseball Museum Web page.
The organization’s goal is to increase public awareness about the museum and get more people involved to help the project become a reality, she said.
On Nov. 15, crews began extensive interior renovations, including removing walls, raising the ceiling and replacing the floor.
When completed, the baseball museum will feature bats, baseballs, gloves, and other memorabilia used by the legendary local players. Without interior walls, the building will be a large, open structure to display artifacts for permanent and rotating exhibits.
The museum will celebrate and educate visitors about Tampa’s baseball heritage from Major League to Little League, including factory, Inter-Social, Negro, municipal, and Cigar City leagues.
“We are currently collecting artifacts that will be in the exhibits,” McCoy said.
The museum society hopes to expand its collection as more local baseball collectors and the relatives and friends of famous players and coaches learned more about the museum project, she said.
“We are really looking for things ecceletic to the Tampa baseball story,” McCoy said. “There are great baseball stories all over the nation. But Tampa has a unique story to tell.”
For information about the baseball museum, go online to TampaBaseballMuseum.org or call (813) 247-1434.
To make an online donation, check out citizinvestor.com/project/the-tampa-baseball-museum. Anyone who donates will be asked to provide credit card information, but their cards will not be charged unless the project reaches its goal by the Feb. 11 deadline.