WESTFIELD – Volunteers for Westfield Little League baseball have been taking advantage of the unseasonably warm winter weather by working to update some of the city’s fields, according to President Ken Diegel.
Focusing initially on Kiwanis Field at Paper Mill Elementary School, volunteers and members of the community have been working to replace the dugouts. Because the old ones were “rotting away,” Diegel said, Brian Burke of Buke Construction suggested taking the project on early because of “the delay in cold weather.”
Though structural updates were needed, the league also elected to change the style of the dugouts.
“We’ve made them smaller than what we had. The other ones were rather large, and it gave the field a lot more of a streamlined look,” Diegel said.
The dugouts still need to be completed, including a fence to protect the players and updates to the infields and pitchers mound have been made at Paper Mill, Cross Street and Hampton Ponds fields.
Diegel said most of the work is dependent on volunteers, like parents, coaches and members of the community, but Westfield Little League will be getting some help from the city before the season begins.
The City Council passed a $1.8 million bond to improve the baseball facilities in the city. Some of that money will go to Bullens Field ahead of the Babe Ruth World Series to update the facilities, including the bleachers.
Diegel said part of the bond would also go towards upgrading the bathrooms and concessions in the rest of the city’s fields, which are owned by the Westfield Parks and Recreation Department.
“We were talking with the city earlier, and they realized that they owned the facilities and we didn’t have a working bathroom at any of our fields,” he said. “[Westfield’s Director of Purchasing] Tammy Teft had the fields surveyed, and they came with all kinds of discrepancies. She was big to push the bond through, and Mayor Brian Sullivan is a very big supporter of the Little League, and we appreciate that.”
Kiwanis Field is meant for players age 6 to 12 and will not be used for the 2016 Babe Ruth Little League World Series. Diegel said he hopes all fields will be completely updated before the start of the season, and the renovations help to keep a strong tradition of baseball in tact.
“This will help maintain Westfield as a premiere baseball city in the area,” Diegel said.