New baseball fields give kids a look in major leagues

Staff Writer Published July 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Jeff Owens, director of the Batesville Parks and Recreation department , stands at the site for construction of new baseball fields that will replicate famous Major League Baseball ball fields. Roughly 50,000 cubic yards of dirt have been moved to level out the area.

— Batesville Little League players with major league dreams will soon get the chance to play on replicas of the baseball diamonds where their Major League Baseball idols play.

Jeff Owens, Batesville parks and recreation director, said that by next spring, 10 new fields will be available for baseball, softball and T-ball players on the North Complex in the city.

“The new fields are designed for 12 and under [baseball] play,” Owens said.

The complex has seven fields and, by the end of the project, it will have 17 fields to play ball on, Owens said.

“The seven [new] baseball fields will replicate major league parks,” Owens said. The seven fields will be sixth-tenths replicas of these major league parks, Owens said.

Of those seven, two of the fields will be compatible for softball play, he said.

The $2.1 million project, paid for by a 1-cent recreation sales tax, is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving, he said.

The fields will replicate Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Comerica Park, Busch Stadium, Minute Maid Park and Chase Field. These fields will be on a smaller scale, but they will share most of the visual elements the major league parks have.

Batesville is one of two U.S. cities that will have such replicas, Owens said.

“We’ll replicate even the way they’re mowed,” Owens said. “It’ll make for a very unique experience.”

He mentioned some of the fields have certain “trademarks” that will be incorporated into the replicas.

For example, at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field, the outfield walls are covered in ivy. Owens said a trellis will be put in to grow the famous ivy at the similar baseball field in Batesville.

Owens said he chose the fields because of the familiarity of them.

“The Yankees are one of the first teams you think of when you think of baseball,” Owens said. “I also chose Busch Stadium because [Arkansas] is St. Louis Cardinal country.”

The new fields are located where the former Batesville rodeo arena was, Owens said.

The arena sat higher up on the ground, so dirt had to be moved to level out the ground where baseball diamonds will soon lie.

“We’ve moved almost 50,000 yards of dirt,” Owens said.

Owens said grass should be put on the fields by Aug. 30.

“We’ve still got parking lots, concession stands and lights to build,” Owens said. “This is one of my first major construction projects as parks director [for Batesville].”

He said the facilities will cover about 30 to 35 acres of property at the North Complex.

Owens said the new facilities will mean new opportunities for the city and community.

“We should be able to host tournaments with up to 40 teams that can play,” Owens said.

“[This project] has been pretty neat,” Owens said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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