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Baseball club calls town diamonds 'ghetto,' using fundraising dollars for upgrades

Collingwood Minor Baseball raised $50,000 to resurface diamonds; town makes plans for other upgrades in 2019
2018-10-10 Baseball JO-001
Tim Fittler, co-vice-president with the Collingwood Minor Baseball Association, is happy with the new resurfacing underway at both the Heritage and Legion baseball diamonds. The association raised $50,000 for the project. Jessica Owen/CollingwoodToday

The Collingwood Minor Baseball League is finally seeing the fruits of four years of work come to pass, with the renovations of the Kinsmen baseball diamond at Heritage Park and the diamond at the Royal Canadian Legion park underway.

“About four years ago we decided, as a board, to start putting money together for capital improvements because we knew, back then, that the town wasn’t going to be much help to us based on our previous meetings with them,” said Tim Fittler, co-vice-president of Collingwood Minor Baseball. “They did give us full latitude on the project.”

Resurfacing on the diamonds started Oct. 1. The legion diamond was expected to be completed by Friday and a few finishing touches are being completed at the Kinsmen diamond on Saturday.

“We finally had enough money in the piggy bank to be able to do it,” Fittler said with a laugh.

The $50,000 was raised through fundraising at golf tournaments, chocolate sales, local sponsors and the annual Collingwood Jays Baseball Bonanza over the past four years Collingwood Minor Baseball has grown over the past few years, seeing about 100 kids signing up seven years ago to this year, where 350 kids signed up.

“The needs of our facilities continue to grow,” Fittler said.

Fittler says the former gravel surfacing at the diamonds were both a playability and safety concern.

“When teams come up to play here who came up last year, they’re going to be amazed. When players slid on the old material, they ripped their pants,” he said. “I coach the midget rep teams, and our kids go down to Toronto and play on some beautiful ball parks. And then they come home to the most ghetto diamond in the area...they come up and can’t believe how bad they diamonds are. They ask us, ‘how can you play on this?’”

Dean Collver, director of the parks, recreation and culture department with the Town of Collingwood, says the town pays roughly $80,000 per year for maintenance of the baseball diamonds around town, which covers staffing and materials. Over the past few years, the town has undertaken, along with community partners, the creation of a new small diamond at Heritage Park as well as a new backstop and netting being installed at the legion diamond.

He says that when Collingwood Minor Baseball approached the town last year with the funding to do necessary repairs to the diamonds that weren’t a part of the current capital budget, the town was thrilled.

“Sometimes it takes time for these things to rise to the top,” said Collver, adding that surfacing of the diamonds was on a list of many priorities the town needed to undertake in the future, but became a priority when the association came to the town with the funds in hand.

“They asked, and we did what we could under the capital budget,” said Collver. “We’re thrilled that Collingwood Minor Baseball made strong moves to be a part of the solution.”

Collver lists the completing of an outfield fence as well as replacing the backstop and fencing at Heritage Park and $200,000 toward lighting at the Central Park Diamond as just some of the many improvements the town has planned for the diamonds in 2019.

Fittler says he is relieved now that the renovations are nearly complete.

“For me, being a part of a legacy project like this is quite neat,” he said.

Fittler says the association has their eyes firmly forward, with plans to start fundraising to partner with the town on repairs on the Heritage Park backstop, getting lights put in at Heritage Park, and improvements to the lights at the Legion diamond, which he estimates will see costs hitting about $500,000.

“We will need the town’s support with the new council and mayor... as well as at the federal and provincial levels. If we had two diamonds with lights along with Central, we could host tournaments all the time. It’s good for the local teams but it’s also great for local businesses all around,” he says.

“It’s just another reason to come to town.”