Renovating baseball field is school-wide project at WMHS

The improvements to the baseball field on the Watertown-Mayer High School campus include a new grass infield. The improvements will allow the school to start playing sub-varsity level games at the field, which typically has been used only for practices. (Staff photo by Matt Bunke)

The improvements to the baseball field on the Watertown-Mayer High School campus include a new grass infield. The improvements will allow the school to start playing sub-varsity level games at the field, which typically has been used only for practices. (Staff photo by Matt Bunke)

Members of Watertown-Mayer High School’s construction staff recently helped build the dugouts as part of improvements at the school’s on-campus baseball field. (Submitted photo)

Members of Watertown-Mayer High School’s construction staff recently helped build the dugouts as part of improvements at the school’s on-campus baseball field. (Submitted photo)

Last spring, Watertown-Mayer Activities Director Mary Haugen found out her school was the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund. Fittingly, the money has spurred quite the community effort in Watertown.

The $10,000 grant, which was matched by the Royals Booster Club, is being used to renovate Watertown-Mayer High School’s on-campus baseball field. For many years, the field has been in such poor condition that it has only been used for practices. But after generous donations of money, time and labor, the hope is that the field will soon be ready to be used for sub-varsity level games, in addition to improved practice space.

In addition to the $20,000 from the Booster Club and the Twins Community Fund, the Watertown Lions Club donated $1,000 and the Mayer Baseball Club donated $500. Local contractor Shawn Killian also donated about $4,600 worth of labor and machinery costs for concrete work associated with dugout floors and a surface to place bleachers on. Jim Erickson’s construction class at the high school also provided the labor to construct the new dugouts.

Haugen said having a vastly improved baseball field is a nice benefit in itself, but she said seeing the way the whole school community has rallied hind the project is the biggest reward.

“I really appreciate the ownership people have taken in making this field come to be,” said Haugen, who first applied for the grant more than a year ago. “This project has provided a lot of benefits above and beyond what you’d get if you just hired somebody to come in and build a field. This has truly been a school-wide project.”

Work on the field started in June. Prior to the commencement of the project, the all-dirt infield was so full of rocks that it made it difficult to use the field in any serious capacity, especially without a grass infield. The outfield was also far from level, according to Haugen, in large part because of work that was done about six years ago to install the school’s geothermal energy system during the last major construction.

Since that project, Haugen said there was never much of an effort put into caring for the turf, and the field slowly deteriorated. But now, that’s all changing.

The work already done on the field is extensive. The new dugouts — built to resemble the ones on the nearby softball field — are one of the most noticeable changes, but in terms of actual field conditions, the new grass infield might be the most significant change.

That particular project included digging out a large portion of the agricultural limestone that previously made up the infield, and bringing in a new subsoil and top soil conducive to growing the infield grass. A new pitching mound was also installed, which required a specific kind of subsoil and top clay mix. An irrigation system was also installed in the infield.

In the meantime, Erickson’s construction class was assembling the dugouts in pieces. They were built in the school’s shop, and then brought over in pieces and assembled at the field.

Haugen said the dedication a number of people have shown in getting the project off the ground has been impressive. She said Erickson was often out at the field on weekends with a number of students, and varsity baseball coach Justin Stohs and assistant Phil Hanson also put in time on the weekends.

“They all came in on the weekends to get the finishing touches done before winter hits,” Haugen said.

While the field has come a long way, Haugen said the project is far from finished. In fact, she said there are fundraising goals of raising another $10,000 to $12,000. Among things still on the wish list for the field are a portable outfield fence, work in the outfield that will make it more level, and eventually, the installation of a batting cage. Eventually, she said the school’s landscaping class might also be able to get involved with the project to do some finishing touches around the dugouts.

Haugen said having a quality field on campus will solve a lot of scheduling problems for the school’s baseball program. With Highland Park being the only full-sized baseball field in town with a grass infield and outfield fence, it was often tough to find enough time to schedule sub-varsity games. Often times, those games were scheduled for Mayer and even New Germany, which Haugen said could often be quite a challenge.

“New Germany is a long way, especially when you have kids that aren’t old enough to drive,” Haugen said. “Now, we can just stay home.”

 

Contact Matt Bunke at matt.bunke@ecm-inc.com

 
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