By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
10:15 PM EDT, June 13, 2011
In forgiving evening sunlight at Oatesdale Park, the Martinsburg Little League Reds and Mariners squared off Monday on the major division’s new baseball ball diamond.
Passionate parents cheered from shaded bleachers that offer a sweeping view of this field of dreams from the outfield as the players chanted from the dugouts.
“Little Leagues just dream of something like this,” said William F. “Bill” Queen, president of the Little League Association’s board.
In Martinsburg, tucked away on 25.5 acres off Tavern Road, the dream, years in the making, has come true at Oatesdale all over again.
The relocation of two ball fields and other improvements, triggered by plans that are now under way to extend Raleigh Street north and connect to Edwin Miller Boulevard, were celebrated on June 4.
The mostly state-funded project came with a $1.2 million price tag and Queen said the architect, Alpha Associates, and the contractor, W. Harley Miller Contracting, went “above and beyond” what was prescribed in the contract. The work included new dugouts, a press box, fencing, lighting, bleachers, irrigation and new sod. Paving also was added to make each field more accessible and a new storage building was constructed, Queen said.
“The press box is 100 times better,” said Reds Manager Jim Weaver while coaching his team.
The end result of the tee ball and major division field relocation also should allow enough room for players to practice at Oatesdale, rather than at school and other park ball fields off-site, Weaver said.
In addition to good drainage infrastructure, Weaver said moving the fans to the outfield seating areas decreases distraction for the players and umpires.
While inclement fall and spring weather “played havoc” with plans to have the work done by April 9, Queen credited the efforts of Jim Gall for taking a lead volunteer role on behalf of the nonprofit organization to see the project through to completion this month.
Queen was just as appreciative of City of Martinsburg and state Department of Transportation officials.
Queen specifically cited Greg Akers of WVDOT for helping facilitate the plan for a park where about 500 children play ball each year.
Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin told city council members last week that a number of individuals and entities went “above and beyond” to make the project a success. A battery of 10 progress meetings were originally scheduled, but the ball field relocation project ultimately turned into a weekly update, Baldwin said.
Mayor George Karos said the park was a beautiful place and an asset to the city. Councilman Rodney Woods said the improvements constituted a “giant step” forward for the children of the community.
When members of the Reds were asked they thought of the new major division ball field Monday evening, all appeared to agree with the simple summation of Weaver’s son, Adam, who was first to reply.
“Beast,” the boy said.
Just like the baseball giant of a man named Babe, many years ago. One can dream on these fields all over again.
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