A grassroots community group is continuing efforts to transform the youth baseball field at Rathman Park back into the showcase it once was.
Dr. Chris Urso and other community volunteers have been working for the past three years fundraising and gathering donations of materials and labor to build brick dugouts and other improvements. The project is nearly complete, and an artificial turf infield could be installed in the next few weeks.
Urso said more than $40,000 has been donated from multiple people and organizations, including the Cincinnati Reds, which donated dirt for the baseball field project.
“We’re excited that (Middletown City Council is) going to listen to a proposal to finish up this field,” Urso said Monday. “It’s been a long process, but we’re excited that we’re closer to the end.”
Scott Tadych, city public works/utilities director, said the artificial field turf infield is the project’s final piece. Artificial field turf materials were purchased through a previous grant from the Middletown Community Foundation, he said.
The cost of the project will be $47,750 which includes waiving the bidding procedure, he said.
Tadych said that Motz has crews available to start the installation this week, and the project could be finished by Nov. 1, weather permitting.
Middletown City Council on Tuesday was expected to approve an emergency ordinance to enable the city manager to sign the contract with Motz to install the artificial turf before winter. The city will appropriate the funding and use all of the donations to reimburse the Capital Improvement Fund.
“This time next year there will be a lot of baseball being played here,” Urso said. “The city will have something to look at and will be very proud.”
Smith Park, the city’s largest park, was previously the home to numerous baseball diamonds, and Rathman Ballfield No. 8 in the southeast corner of the park was the showcase because playing under the lights was a special experience for youth baseball players. Most of those former ballfields have been converted into soccer fields.
Urso previously told the Journal-News that the park will feature two brick and block dugouts with storage facilities, which have been completed, a decorated brick wall behind home plate, large netting that will protect fans from foul balls and a home run fence.
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