by Maren Bauer
Dakota County Tribune
‘Tis the season to hit a homer. That can be more difficult to do if your baseball fields are in need of improvements.
Farmington Travel Baseball Association (FTBA), in conjunction with Farmington Youth Baseball (FYB), applied for a grant to receive field renovations after the city’s parks and recreation referendum failed last year.
That referendum included a $10 million bond to renovate local parks and update soccer and baseball fields.
Instead, Farmington baseball can celebrate with the grant win.
FTBA received a matching grant of $10,000 from the organization Twins Fields for Kids to install dugout roofs (which have already been completed), install three double batting cages, irrigation to the Dodge fields, and a walking path to the Dodge center area.
Midwest Fence, as well as Frandrup Masonry Inc. (Hastings) and Hedlund Irrigation & Landscaping (Hampton) helped to donate materials for the projects.
The organization has already received positive reviews from Farmington players on the improvements, as well as positive reviews from visiting communities at the 11A and 13A traveling baseball tournament.
Brian Stender, director of FTBA, said with 69 teams between the two baseball programs with more than 800 players, not to mention the number of softball teams and players using the same or other fields, there is a need for additional ball fields within Farmington.
Since the referendum failed in November, which had five additional ball fields proposed, other options for more field space have been discussed by the two associations, he said.
“Since additional fields are not likely in the near term, investing in batting cages at the Dodge and Riverview fields provided the opportunity for some additional practice space for our baseball teams in the short term,” he said.
He said the two organizations have investigated getting more fields lighted to address field space and time issues since they could be used after dark.
Stender said the only lighted fields in the community are the Stelzel fields in Empire Township.
Registration numbers for FTBA were up 5 percent in 2017, which marked a three-year increase by 5 percent or more, according to Stender.
He said the goal of FTBA is to teach the fundamentals of baseball, and: “Baseball is also a great sport to teach kids life lessons on an individual and team level while having fun with friends.”
Stender said the countless hours of volunteer work keeps participation costs low.
“We count on donations and fundraising to improve our fields, perform maintenance when needed and offer development programs to our players and coaches,” he said.
Each of the FTBA teams has three volunteer coaches along with a volunteer manager, resulting in 84 unpaid volunteer positions.
Non-coach parents of each player on each team volunteer at least 10 hours each season during FTBA’s three tournaments in May and June selling concessions, field work for tournament games, or other needed help throughout the season.
FYB also has three volunteer coaches along with a volunteer manager, and requires non-coach parents to volunteer at its two tournaments combined with Lakeville.
Contact Maren Bauer at [email protected].