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Matching grant goes to baseball field upgrades

Gale Rose
St. John News
Kole Foote makes it to first base just before Ryer Ward catches the ball during a practice on the newly refurbished city ball field. Lots of shale was added to level out the field that was 11 inches in height from one side to another.

It’s summer and the cry of “Play ball” has already been heard at the baseball field in St. John.

When players in St. John Recreation teams hit the field for practice, they are going to notice a definite change in the infield. There is no more slope from third base to first base.

Danton Hilton, St. John Recreation director, said over time, the field had deteriorated. There used to be a 13 inch elevation change from third base to first base. Over the years, wind and water had eroded the field. A lot of dirt had blown off the field and into the fence. There was also an elevation change from the pitching mound to home plate.

But thanks to a $5,000 matching grant from the Royals Charity Organization, the field has been upgraded and looks great. Superior Athletic Fields did the work on the field. It took nine loads of shale but the field is now on the level and providing a better playing surface for teams, Hilton said.

The recreation department equaled the grant plus a little extra so the total spent on the facility was $12,000. Wade Beal, president of Superior Athletics, did most of the work himself. He leveled the infield and recut the arch where the infield meets the outfield that had become more of a square than an arch.

The shale is reddish and comes from a quarry in the Conway Springs and Derby area. It was packed down to get the elevations correct, the bases were anchored and home plate was actually moved to make it inline with the first and third base lines, Hilton said.

The refurbish work was completed June 4 after a weeks work. Hilton said Beal did a good job and the field is in great shape now although it could use some rain to settle the dust.

“It’s fantastic. It looks like one of the best baseball fields in the area,” Hilton said. “He did a good job. We are good to go.”

Recreation teams took advantage of the refurbished field and went to work on improving their games. Coaches and children took the field that was flat and provided a better playing surface.

St. John Recreation has teams in age groups 8-9 and 10-11. There are about 70 children involved in baseball and softball. The older boys are scheduled to play games with Larned, Ellinwood, Hoisington and Lyons. Their first home game is a double header against Larned scheduled for June 18.

The younger guys play two games in St. John and two in Stafford.

The recreation department has 21 homes games scheduled this summer from t-ball to 10-12 boys. An adult slow pitch softball league with tournaments is planned for this fall.

There was a three team slow pitch league last summer. It was just for fun and no records were kept. There was a lot of interest and the recreation department wants to grow the league this summer. Players on the slow pitch team have to be at least 16-years-old and a parent’s signature is required to play.