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Michigan baseball field a community effort

June 10, 2018

KALKASKA, Mich. (AP) — There’s a new baseball field in Kalkaska and it is entirely the community’s doing.

Volunteer fundraiser John “Jack” Tanner, of Kalkaska, said the town collectively raised $190,000 in cash donations, plus at least $52,000 through in-kind services donated to the effort. It took several years to get there, but now the new ball field is where the varsity team plays its home games.

No taxpayer dollars were spent on the project, officials said.

“It was the efforts of the entire community,” said Justin Thorington, athletic director for Kalkaska’s schools.

He said Kalkaska High School now has two baseball diamonds, one for varsity and one for junior varsity. Before this season, both the school’s teams could not practice at the same time at the same campus, with the varsity team members instead traveling to a field in Rapid City for after-school practices.

“Any time you can get the kids on your own property, that’s better,” Thorington said.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports that the change also allows for the school’s football team to practice in the fall in the outfield of the JV baseball field, he said, and both the boys and girls soccer teams can practice on school property too, rather than on county fields by the Kaliseum, as was past custom. Benefits of the change are reduced legal liabilities for the use of off-school sites, and most student athletes won’t have to leave school for practices, Thorington said.

Only Kalkaska’s golf and hockey teams now use facilities not owned by the school district.

Tanner said donations came from any number of benefit events and fundraising activities, many spearheaded by his volunteer partner, the late Patrick Hubble, of Rapid City. Hubble worked tirelessly to raise money for the baseball field up until his sudden death in mid-December, said both Tanner and Kalkaska baseball coach Bill Vandergriff.

Players on the team decided to have his initials stitched into the sleeves of their new uniforms as a nod to and expression of gratitude for Hubble’s incredible efforts.

“It shows good character,” Vandergriff said about his players’ decision to honor the late champion of their new ballfield.

Tanner agreed.

“It was a great gesture. The Hubble family were honored,” he said.

Vandergriff also underscored the importance of large donations made by McLean’s Home Center toward a new scoreboard, as well as those made by R.L. Morris & Sons Construction, which donated equipment and labor to move 16,000 cubic yards of dirt to create a level ball field.

Not all the work is completed, though.

“We have a couple of things yet to do,” Tanner said.

Future plans include a new press box and storage building, cement pads for bleachers and also cement sidewalks, he said, and the district continues to accept donations to help cover the costs of those upgrades.


Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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