Changes at Minor ball field are major

Changes at Minor ball field are major
Changes at Minor ball field are major

Robin Francis (right) checks the plate with Casey Estill looking on at the Cal Ripken Minor League Field.
The Union City Cal Ripken Minor League Field has undergone a “major” facelift.
As a matter of a fact, one might not recognize the facility when thinking of the way it appeared in the past.
However, Union City Turf Management Department Dir-ector Chris Crockett believes it will soon get recognition of another kind thanks to the $60,000 and countless man hours of hard work poured into making the field a sight to behold.
“I think this is going to be one of the best recreational league fields in the state once people get a chance to see it in use,” Crockett said. “We’ve resodded the entire outfield and put new infield cutouts in place that will help us to hopefully get more state tournaments.”
Indeed, the cutouts are new as is the grass in the outfield, the dugouts, the scoreboard in right field and the roof on the press box.
Furthermore, new lighting was installed after the Union City Council deemed the lights that were in place as not-up-to-standard.
Yet, the field’s most recognizable attribute could be the “Mini-Monster” that has been erected in left field.
The 12-foot tall green wall — which may remind locals of a small-scale version of Fenway Park’s “Green Monster” in Boston — was built out of necessity rather than to give the park character.
The rest of the outfield fence stands at six feet tall.
“We ran into an issue — due to the fact that the parking lot begins just beyond left field — where the only way we could be eligible to host some tournaments was to put the big fence up,” Crockett explained. “It was a battle where it was the parking lot versus the field and, as you can see, the parking lot won out.
“I really don’t mind it, though, being a Red Sox fan and all, as it can be my own little homage to Fenway Park right here in my backyard.”
The Union City Department of Turf Management and Facility Operations, which had a 2007-08 budget of $318,000 and employs nine season workers and three full-time employees, began work on the field in January and the first games played at the facility were during the Summer Slam Tournament in early-June.
But the best is yet to come for the reconfigured field as it will have a starring role in the Cal Ripken Rookie League Southeast Regionals.
The facility has been selected as the field where the champion of that tournament will be crowned on July 27.
Other games throughout the tournament will be played on the Minor League Field.
“For us, this is part of a greater plan that we had when this department began a few years back,” Crockett said. “Our mission was to improve the park in an efficient manner and utilize the fields here for the youth to the best of our abilities.
“I think we are well on our way to doing that with the improvements at Thompson Field, Elam Stadium and now this field. Add that to the future work that we have planned for the Union City Middle School/High School softball field and I see our vision coming together.”
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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