ValleyCats staffers repair flood-damaged Schoharie ballfield

By the time the snow has melted and practice begins in the spring, the young athletes won’t be able

By the time the snow has melted and practice begins in the spring, the young athletes won’t be able to notice the damage flooding did to their ball field in Schoharie.

And after finishing touches completed by administrative staff from the Tri-City ValleyCats, the main baseball diamond will actually be better than it was before the Schoharie Creek swallowed it in August.

About a dozen staff members from the Troy-based professional baseball team converged on the site next to Fox Creek Park early Wednesday to give the field some technical upgrades that will fit the site for tournament play.

Like most of Schoharie, the baseball diamonds near the Schoharie and Fox creeks were wrecked by the flood and languished for weeks while emergency recovery was under way.

Rocks were strewn about and raging water cut major divots into the adjacent picnic area. A dugout was carried hundreds of feet by the creek, which left it tipped over alongside Route 30. The remains of trees torn up by wind littered the area.

The concession building, inundated by several feet of floodwater, is now gutted, fencing is fixed and trees are cleared following the efforts of companies and volunteers working to put the place back together.

The Schoharie Little League’s website recognizes numerous companies that sent help, including Asplundh Tree Expert Company, Proud Castle Trucking & Excavating, Oakhill Landscaping, Morissette’s Custom Tree Service, John’s Septic Service and employees from National Grid and Fox 23 News.

Representatives of other Little League teams donated time, equipment and cash, including those from Carman, Fonda, Gloversville, Halfmoon, Johnstown and Menands.

The flood prevented youths from playing ages 10-and-under “Fall Ball” in Schoharie, but neighboring teams have been supportive, Schoharie Little League officer Tim Sweeney said.

“We’re certainly very appreciative,” he said. “It was a lot of outreach, a lot of support.”

The crew on Wednesday aimed to remove “lips” and “ramps” in the field surface and even out the infield while making adjustments to the pitcher’s mound and home plate, said Keith Sweeney, operations manager for Joseph L. Bruno Stadium on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College, the ValleyCats’ home field.

The group brought its own supplies, including some “infield mix” for use in leveling, a new home plate, bases and pitching rubber.

They used a laser level to guide an adjustment of the pitcher’s mound, which needs to be 8 inches higher than home plate, and broadened the base path, where players round the bases, to the standard 6-foot width using a sod cutter.

The lips and ramps are eliminated to avoid unexpected hops a ground ball can take, Sweeney said.

“It just makes it safe for the kids,” he said.

The Schoharie Little League had previously not been able to host district competitions because the baseball diamond didn’t meet precise specifications, but that won’t be a problem after the work by the ValleyCats staff on Wednesday, league Vice President Steve Alescio said.

One of the league’s officers is an engineer who developed blueprints for revamping the concession building, which was lifted 3 feet off its foundation by the flood, Alescio said.

This winter, he said, the league intends to restore electrical service to the field, bring in some heaters and work with the goal of finishing in time for the 2012 season.

“It means a lot to the kids,” Alescio said.

ValleyCats fan development manager Michelle Skinner, who was raking the expanded base path in the chilly air Wednesday morning, said she felt it was a great opportunity for the team’s staff to put some final touches on the field.

Sales account executive Chris Dawson said the team’s Little League field renovation program gives staff a chance to get out in the community during the slower season and he’s always eager to see the photographs the Little Leaguers send in showing opening day on a revamped field.

“It’ll be exciting for next spring to roll around,” Dawson said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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