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Smashing start for Tampa Baseball Museum | News

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Smashing start for Tampa Baseball Museum
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Tampa, Florida -- The future museum that will show off Tampa Bay's ties to America's pastime got a smashing start Wednesday.

Saved from an I-4 widening project and moved a mile down the road, a modest, weather-worn home will capture Tampa's baseball past.

Organizers plan to renovate and open it by this Spring. But first, it needs a lot of work.

Even though he was Tampa's first major league baseball player, Al Lopez always came back to this humble home in Ybor City. It's where he hung his ball cap for 50 years.

"He was always part of the community," said the Baseball Hall of Famer's son, who is also named Al.

"It was nice to see the neighbors always come over and come by the porch and sit on the porch and kind of talk and reminisce."

The younger Al grew up in the house, which shows its age but holds onto its charm.

A different kind of big swing Wednesday kicked off its transformation into the Tampa Baseball Museum.

Local leaders, contractors, and the heads of the Ybor City Museum Society -- who are behind the project -- took turns smashing a sledgehammer through one of the home's walls in a ceremony Wednesday.

Once the inside and outside are renovated -- no small task -- a collection of Tampa Bay baseball memorabilia and artifacts will move from the nearby Ybor City Museum into the Al Lopez house.

The items will find a new home in the old home of the forefather of Tampa Bay baseball, the first of what's now more than 80 major league ballplayers to grow up in Hillsborough County.

Grants from the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, and private donors have gotten organizers just over halfway through the funding of the project.

They still need $200,000 to make it a reality, and they're hoping donors from the community will come through. If you'd like to contribute, visit the Tampa Baseball Museum website.

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