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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Last year, a core group of volunteers looked to restore the tradition at the Belvedere Dixie Youth baseball field.
This year, they are looking to continue building on that success. To do that, they not only need more players and teams, but also help from the community.
Michael Brock, the president of Belvedere Dixie Youth Baseball, said when his group took over, the entire area was overgrown and snake infested.
"We got out with Parks and Recreation and cleaned up the tree line around here," he said. "We drummed up some sponsors to bring in money down here to revitalize the bleachers and teams. The kids weren't coming down here, and we weren't getting but maybe 20 or 30 kids to sign up. We uprooted the mounds so that we could utilize the fields for different divisions, for each of our four age groups and moved the bases in. We repainted the bathrooms, bleachers and repaired them. We also did a lot of electrical work on the concession stand."
Brock said he wanted the public to know that Belvedere baseball was still here and hadn't closed down. With this being his home field from childhood, he took special care in helping guide the project to where he feels it needs to be. It also helps that he lives right across the street from the park, and also wants to beautify the area.
Build it and they will come
This year, there are 14 teams that call the fields home this season. That's a jump from two-and-a-half last spring.
Brock said the ice storm's damage still lingers. It is easily seen by walking around the grounds. The fields and playground area are both separated from a wooded area by a single chain-link fence. However, that fence has suffered damage from downed limbs. One area in particular has been pulled apart where children can sneak under and out into an area with snakes, mosquitoes, ticks and other harmful bits of nature.
"It put a hampering on our fence line," Brock said. "I'm hoping we can get into the community and draw up some extra sponsorship. The batting cage got dinged up, and you couldn't even get into it or use it with the vines that grew up in there. Now we've got it cleaned up, but there's some damage to the top."
One word Brock kept using when describing the fields was love. He said the area, and neighborhood, had been overrun. He is hopeful the work he and the volunteers are doing is showing how much they care and love the area.
"A lot of people are excited when they come down," he said. "You are starting to see the spirit of baseball coming back to Belvedere. ... We're definitely on the right track, but there's a lot of work to do."
As the field has blossomed, the Dixie Youth Baseball group has received help from a number of other recreational leagues, including Midland Valley, Gregg Park and Jackson. Those other recreation leagues have helped with cleanup and guidance as needed.
No amount of help is too big or small
One major thing Brock is looking for is more coaches.
"We could use more volunteer dads to come out and coach,” he said. “We understand work schedules and conflicts, but we need some more help and support right there from dads and whatnot."
John DeCicco, the vice president of Belvedere Dixie Youth Baseball, pointed out that the field is surviving off the work of volunteers. Some, such as he and his wife, come down and pour hours every day into upkeep, maintenance and improvements. Others come once a week or month and volunteer their talents, such as one volunteer who comes down with a riding mower to help out.
"Him coming out here takes me off a mower all day," DeCicco said. "While he is focusing on upkeep, I can focus on other improvements. A little bit of help here and there goes a long way. We need people who know fencing to help with the repairs. We have sprinkler equipment that we would like to get running again, but we have no idea if it's worth saving or not."
Brock said any extra funds are also put toward scholarships to help kids who may not be able to afford their own equipment.
"The more we grow, the more we can do," he said. "We want all kids to have a chance to play the game and enjoy the game. We want to keep their minds in a positive area. Hopefully, some of these kids will move on and play college ball somewhere. That would be great; that would be the reward I would get, to see some of these kids get themselves a college scholarship. It would let me know my hard work and efforts I put in down here went toward something, and that the kids got the message I was trying to send to them – hard work will get you there if you stay focused."
The league's website can be found at eteamz.com/belvederedybb.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star.