BUCKHANNON - Baseball organizations in Upshur County stepped up to the plate this week to pitch a new proposal for a larger field to the Upshur County Commission, a plan that may require the use of county property.
Ron Sandreth, a representative of the Upshur County Pony League and the Blue Lightning Baseball Club - a traveling baseball organization - addressed the County Commission Thursday with his request to use property owned by the county for a new, larger and more versatile baseball field for the Pony League.
Sandreth said a new field would prevent or reduce out-of-county traveling for games and practices by the participating youth baseball players. The field would be located by the Buckhannon-Upshur High School, below the football practice field.
Commission President J.C. Raffety said the property used to be the site of an amphitheater and hasn't been used in years. Commissioners said that, before approving the request, an agreement needed to be worked out.
"I think you have a great idea," Commissioner Troy Brady said. "I think we just need to get a plan and see if we can't make it happen."
Brady wasn't alone in his support for the field.
"I think we just need to get the details worked out as far as an agreement," Tenney said, later adding, "I think it's a great opportunity. In the 18 years I've been on the Commission, we've talked about different uses for that... I think it's just a matter of working out an agreement and getting all the details worked out. I think it's a great thing.
"One of the biggest reasons nothing has happened over the years is the money," Tenney said. "It takes a lot of money to develop a field like that and it takes a group of people, apparently like you all, that has the desire to develop and that has the kids that you want to see stay home. That's a great combination."
Sandreth said the purpose of the organizations' request was to secure and develop the property for Pony League Pony Division members, which includes 13 and 14-year-old kids, and have a field in the county for a traveling baseball group to compete with similar groups.
"There's really nowhere for those kids to play," Sandreth said. "This calendar year, there was a group of 13- and 14-year-olds who had to go to Lewis County to play baseball, had to travel daily for practice to all their games over in Lewis County because at this point in time, at the Tennerton complex (behind Tennerton Elementary School) there is no Pony Division-sized field for the 13- and 14-year-olds."
Sandreth said the field would require longer baselines, a longer pitching mound and a longer fence than what is currently available in Tennerton. He also said the travel team was able to utilize the Middle School baseball field this year when it was not in use.
"Unfortunately for us, who are continuing to travel next year, our kids move up to the next age group, which is longer bases than what the middle school field allows for," Sandreth said. "At this point in time, for next year, for our travel team, we also don't have a field to play on."
The proposed Pony League Baseball field would be built so those who utilize it can peg the field for the different bases and distances needed to accommodate that team. Sandreth also said the long-term plans include building an indoor batting cage to keep kids practicing all year.
"Baseball is one of those sports that if you don't stay with it most of the year, don't fine-tune your skills, you tend to fall behind," Sandreth said, adding the batting cage would come after the proposed field is built.
The field project would costs an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 dollars to complete, but Sandreth said he is confident the funds can be raised. He said the Upshur County Pony League already committed to contribute $10,000, and he knows of other potential donors who are both excited and willing to support the project.
"We're confident we can come up with the money," Sandreth said. "We have a lot of folks interested... this group of folks that we have gathered here are determined to make some changes and get things done."
Sandreth said he wasn't asking Commissioners for money to make the project possible or even tasking them with the responsibility of paying for the upkeep of the field. He said the goal was to have a local field large enough to meet the needs of the Pony League so the student team members were not having to travel daily to Lewis County to practice or play.
To reach Sandreth or the UCPL and find out how to help or get involved, call 304-704-8064.