How'd you get started on this project?
A couple of years ago, when my son and I were involved with Amphi Little League, I looked at how substandard the facilities we had were. They were terrible. We played at Amphi Middle School, where there are no trees, there's no fencing, there's very little in the way of seating. It's just not a good place to play.
I looked into the idea of seeing if we could upgrade our facilities at Jacobs Park, where we practiced, to see if we could move there. But to do so was going to take six figures to put in the field, to put in fencing, to put in lighting, to put in a scoreboard.
Did the cost surprise you?
No, because the surrounding leagues have lights and a scoreboard and there's cement in the dugout floor and there's a roof over the dugout and a playground area for kids and ramadas and a grill. It's a complete experience when you go to the park. And our place had none of that. So I knew it was something that was going to cost a lot of money, from the irrigation to the fencing to the upgrade of the lights. I knew it was going to be daunting and that's why it's taken two years to get to where we are.
How many teams are there in the Amphi Little League?
You have different divisions. You have T-ball, you have mini-minors, you have minors, you have majors, and there's also juniors and seniors, so last year we had upwards of 20-plus teams.
And the kids range in age?
From 6 years on up to 15 years old.
And you're not associated with the school district?
No. Little League is laid out in geographic boundaries. And within our boundaries, we have a huge pool of children to draw from to get into our league.
But at the school, we didn't have the liberties to make upgrades as we saw fit. We had to go through the bureaucracy of the school to get things done. Our home run fence is a bunch of cones on the outfield grass. So a hard hit ground ball that gets to the outfield is a ground-rule double.
So there's zero pride in what's going on. Hopefully, with the new facilities people can take pride in taking care of their field and we can host all-star tournaments. Amphi has not hosted an all-star tournament in 15 years.
Beyond the Diamondbacks, has anyone else been there to help you out?
We have things in the works and I don't know the details, but I know that City Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar has funding lined up. We have some other options.
The Diamondbacks, once they latch onto a project, they finish it. They want it done before this upcoming spring baseball season.
So kids will be playing ball there by this spring.
Exactly. The condition of the old field was just unacceptable. There was no community pride.
I grew up in small-town Ohio. Our baseball field was immaculate and there was such a pride that came with it, with the parents out taking care of the fields before the games and after the games. I thought it would be something that would be good for not just the kids, but for the parents of the kids to have a family experience when they go to a Little League game.
I should also mention John Ward. He is the treasurer of the league and has been involved for as long as I have. He's a developer for KB Homes, so he's been working with me to get the city behind this project.