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The community project is alive and well in Bement, where a group of local residents and volunteers are in the process of renovating a once popular summer site.
Harold Ard, Barney Camden and Chalmer Hinton have headed a group of Bement residents working to renovate the towns old school baseball diamond.
“There is just a need,” said Camden. “The Pony League is using a little league diamond and they are too big to playing on that. We have girls softball that is using it as well. There is just a need. In the summer, you can’t go by and not see kids playing at Cole’s Pasture and that’s just a cow pasture.”
The project, which is currently underway, is expected to be completed by the coming fall and will cost an estimated $30,000.
The project has been approved by the Bement school district and a construction committee of volunteers has been formed. The committee, which consists of Jim Quick, Tom Kinsella, Kevin Walsh and Bement school district superintendent Dan Brue, will focus on keeping costs at a minimum through the use of donations and volunteer labor.
“We are looking for help from everybody,” said. Ard. “This is a volunteer project. A lot of the materials and labor are being donated and we are still looking for help from anyone.”
So far the project has already drawn approximately $3,500 dollars in donations, as well donated materials and equipment.
The rehabilitation process will include grading the infield and outfield to equal elevations, as well as the construction of permanent fences along both the foul lines and a portable fence around the outfield.
“The main problem we have is in the summer we don’t have a proper field for kids to play on,” said Hinton. “We have one ball diamond for several teams trying to organize games and practices, and that field is just too small for some of the older levels.”
Still in it’s early phases, the field is a month into planning and reconstruction began last week.
Rehabilitation began its infancy with a testing of potential drainage outlets and a complete survey on ground levels.
“We are going to tile under the infield,” said Kinsella. “We want to get proper drainage and we have a potential tie in with the inlet. Next, we’ll start scraping the existing soil to get the field down to the proper level and then when we get the new material we can bring it up to the correct grade.”
The initial focus on the field is on the infield, which is expected to be useable by the end of this summer.
Original plans were for the field to have a grass infield, but have since been shifted to a more utility-based dirt infield, which will allowed softball and Pony League baseball games to be played there.
“Once we get it graded to where we want, then the new materials will start coming in and we can start to feather and roll it,” said Kinsella. “Then we can start shooting for the final elevations, so we are rolling with the project right now. It will be season long process, but the sooner we get the infield in, the sooner we can let it settle and have it available for use.”
The project resurrects a plan initially developed by Mike Walsh prior to his death in 2002.
Walsh had worked through several early planning stages, but passed away before construction could get underway leaving the field dormant until Hinton revived the idea before taking action this winter.
“This idea started for me a few years ago,” said Hinton. “I was watching a little league practice one day out at Cove’s Pasture and I saw the balls bouncing all over the place. When a kid gets hit with a ball, sometimes they get scared of it for a little awhile. I thought my god, we can do better than this.”
The renewed site will revive the towns former baseball diamond and provided the high school with a viable field. Bement has not hosted a varsity baseball game since 1997, playing all their home games in Atwood, the home of their current cooperative partner Atwood-Hammond. That cooperative will not be renewed following the completion of thi school year.
“Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” said Brue. “I think it just fell into disrepair and the Atwood-Hammond field was available and they just used decided to go there. I know the last time we used this field was in 1997. “The reason I know that is because our coach now, Mike Hall, was an assistant coach the last year they used this.”
Donations and volunteers are still needed.
Tax-deductible gifts can also be sent to The Bement Foundation at the the State Bank of Bement under the marking of Ball Park Fund.