By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
On the surface, things don’t appear that bad at Keizer Little League Park.
After all, from the distance, the 12 fields have green grass and clearly defined base paths. Fences and dugouts are present at each field.
Examine the fields more closely, however, and the need for repairs becomes apparent.
A closer examination is what happened Tuesday afternoon. Clint Holland, who talked about renovations at the venerable park during last week’s Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (see related story, page A1), led city parks supervisor Robert Johnson and Tony Cuff, Chris Argue and Brad Arnsmeier on a tour of the fields.
Cuff and Argue are the two men Holland mentioned during the Parks Board meeting who are looking to renovate the fields one at a time. The need has been identified in recent years as the facility has fallen into a state of disrepair. That’s a far cry from 40 years ago, when the facility was the pride of the city and was being constantly maintained by an army of volunteers.
By contrast, Argue pointed to himself, Cuff and Arnsmeier. Not present were Summer and Kevin Catron, as well as longtime volunteer Vern West, who mows the fields using the mower bought by the city two years ago.
“You are basically looking at half of the volunteers doing the work on these fields,” Argue said. “It used to be every business in Keizer was involved, because their kids were playing ball here. I’m just trying to help Tony. I want to fix what I can fix.”
At various times during the tour, Holland pointed to drains around the facility, many of which were covered or filled with leaves.
“This drain gets clogged,” Holland said while motioning to one. “If we clear the drains, we will stop the flooding here.”
Cuff mentioned a number of dugouts have blown down in recent years during high winds.
“This is the only one that hasn’t blown down, because it is cabled to the fence,” Cuff said before pointing to another nearby dugout. “This one blows down constantly. That’s why we have the board holding it up.”
As proposed last week, Holland sees money from the Parks Board’s matching grant program being used each year to help pay for repairs. In many cases, the work would include new dirt, new sod, new dugouts and improved fencing.
The tour showed the need. The grass on some fields has become dangerous, injuring players due to the uneven ball bounces. Some base paths are muddy, while many fences have picked up noticeable bends over the years.
“We’re looking at doing the fields and doing them right, one at a time,” Holland said. “This place has become old and needs to be fixed. That will take money.”
Johnson asked how the facility got into its current shape.
“It has to be worked on every night after games,” said Holland, who did such work for about 20 years in the past. “It has to be dragged. You have to know how to do it. I would drag and water every night.”
Arnsmeier acknowledges those doing the work now haven’t been properly trained.
“Coaches now prep the fields for the next day,” he said. “It’s the lack of education about how to do it. For a lot of them, it’s their first time doing it. They end up causing more damage. We’ve been inadequate with our training and education.”
Cuff, a grass seed farmer, noted Field 3 – Engineer Field, closest to the water tower and the road – will get the initial focus.
“This is the field we’re looking at doing first,” he said. “Once you miss the planting window (for the grass), you’re done.”
Cuff is hoping to put down sod for the infield in the coming weeks, then seed the outfield in the fall. He envisions bulking up the bottom of the fencing, while Holland is working with Rick Day on getting concrete to use for new dugouts.
Holland mentioned the hesitancy to invest much in the fields since Keizer Little League currently has a two-year lease with the city.
“That is one big road block,” Arnsmeier agreed.
Cuff said that caused problems last fall.
“We hesitated last fall for a week,” he said. “That’s why the fields look like this now.”
Arnsmeier said two fields have been identified for the first two years of renovation.
“We have prioritized Fields 3 and 7,” he said. “If we can get them playable, that’s a great start. Field 3 is the more visible one.”
Argue pointed to a unique issue Keizer has with its little league facility.
“Most places have four fields to maintain,” he said. “Keizer has eight more fields than that.”