New field proves a diamond can be found in dirt
At a glance
New additions to the Craig Middle School baseball field:
• Cinderblock dugouts and press box
• Batting cages
• New infield grass and sprinkler system
• Pitching mound and batter's boxes
How to help
To support the ongoing construction of the baseball field at Craig Middle School, the Booster Club is sponsoring a raffle for an Elkhorn Outfitters fully guided big game hunt.
Tickets cost $20, and the hunt is valued at $5,000. The winner has a choice of elk, deer or antelope.
The winner is responsible for hunting license, processing and taxidermy fees.
The elk or deer hunt will last five days in the 2010 season, and the antelope hunt will last three days.
The raffle drawing will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at 934 Steele Court.
For more information, visit www.elkhornoutfitters.com, or for tickets call 824-7877.
Craig With the hum of a steamroller Thursday afternoon, the chores of a maintenance crew and a fresh line of chalk, a diamond is quietly returned to gem status.
The grass is emerald green and rolled across the infield at the park at Craig Middle School like shag carpet.
Slowly, the field is being transformed.
A maintenance crew pulls up patches of turf - not unlike sweeping under a rug - to check and recheck the new sprinkler system.
A steamroller, the kind typically used to flatten asphalt, slowly rolls fresh lines in the grass, like planting crops.
Bulldogs baseball's old home is becoming new again.
The field, which was shut down for summer baseball, serves as Moffat County High School and Craig Middle School's home ballpark.
The Booster Club, along with several other baseball figures, spearheaded the project.
Since May, Shane Camilletti and other parents and members of the Booster Club have been working to repair the field.
The work has corresponded with an ongoing bond issue at Craig Middle School, and maintenance crews from the school have donated time to work on the field.
Already this summer, the infield grass has been laid down, and the has been mound replaced.
Before the summer is gone, the fences will be repaired and a batting cage will be installed beyond the right field fence.
In the fall or spring, new dugouts and a press box will be constructed.
The pacing and scope of the project depends on how much money the Booster Club receives.
"For so long, the field's been an eyesore," Camilletti said. "When you drive by the school, it's one of the things you really notice.
"It is a good improvement to the field, and a good improvement to the school."
Camilletti said the Booster Club went to the Moffat County School District with a plan to reconstruct the field.
Before, the infield was pebble-laden dirt, and the dugouts were cramped when filled with high school players.
"The baseball field was in poor condition, to say the least," he said. "The school was planning to do some improvements, so we just kind of put it all together and went with it."
Baseball coach Justin Folley said he had hoped for a new field for a while.
"Tim Hafey (former MCHS coach) and I talked about what needed to be done," he said. "We had meetings with some of the members of the School Board, and the community has really helped quite a bit."
The total project comes with a price tag north of $60,000, Camilletti said.
"That's not including the labor the School District has donated," he said.
Having people donate time to the field wasn't surprising, Camilletti added.
"It really is what you'd expect from (Craig)," he said. "A lot of people have decided to help out.
"Bower Brothers went in with their grader and did the infield. So many people have donated their time."
Some of the field's manmade landmarks, like a white building with "Dawgs" spray painted in Moffat County blue, and the mesh netting in left field, will remain.
"That jumbled mess out in left field we probably can't fix this year," Camilletti said. "We'll put up new mesh, but eventually we'd like to see it replaced with a chain-link fence going all the way up."
Other features, like the tarps blowing across the fence, will disappear and be replaced with new mesh.
A new batting cage will be installed beyond the right field fence, taking a spot previously occupied by weeds and overgrown grass.
In the fall, the wooden dugouts will vanish, and cinderblock structures will take their place.
The press box also will be replaced with a cinderblock structure, and the mound will receive a major-league makeover.
"The cinderblocks are much more sturdy," Camilletti said. "They always stay cooler in the summer."
An opportunity arose to renovate the field when ongoing construction at the middle school forced the American Legion Post 62 baseball team to play at Woodbury Sports Complex.
"It's been needed for a while, and this summer, with the construction at the middle school, they had to close the field down," Folley said. "It was the perfect time to do it."
After school was dismissed for the summer, work began on and off the field.
While new grass was being picked out, the Booster Club was busy raising funds to make it happen, Camilletti said.
"We had some money in the Booster Club, but we still have a long ways to go," he said. "Next year, the whole thing will be redone, if we can keep raising the money to make it happen."
Repairing the field goes a long way toward building the team, Folley said.
"It definitely does something big for the program," Folley said. "It gives kids something to look forward to. Coming into high school, they'll say they want to play baseball on that field."
Before, the field was the exact opposite.
"We've always had the field here, but it's been so rough and neglected for so long it's almost a hazard to put kids out there," Folley said.
Having a substandard facility left the team at a competitive disadvantage, Folley said.
"Grass is the main thing, and to get a batting cage outside of the right field fence," he said. "Those are the two things we need most for this program to succeed."
The cages would help make practices more efficient, Folley said.
"Any of the other fields you go to - Rifle, even Hayden, Palisade, Delta, all those teams - pretty much every field has cages," he said. "It makes a difference because you're able to do so much more in practice.
"It makes practice smoother and keeps all the kids busy."
With the old infield dirt gone, and green grass in its place, the field already has transformed, Folley said.
"It's no longer the field from 'The Sandlot,'" he said. "It's a good field, and it'll last for a long time."