Refurbishing Roxana baseball – AdVantage News

The Roxana Shells will be getting a new shine to their baseball program soon.

In late September it was announced the Roxana baseball field was awarded a grant worth $81,909 for upgrades through the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a joint initiative between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. On Nov. 15, the Roxana School Board approved even more upgrades to accompany the grant.

“They were gracious enough to move forward with just about everything presented,” Roxana head baseball coach Scott Harper said of the school board. “That includes bleachers that will have some stadium seating, a press box and restrooms with a concession area.”

Harper came up with the idea of applying for the Baseball Tomorrow Fund after seeing the Alton Middle School fields get an upgrade through the grant in 2013. The fund’s purpose is to promote the growth of youth baseball and softball throughout the world by awarding grants for field renovation and construction projects, equipment, uniform purchases, coaches training material and other expenses.

It was formed in 1999 and has awarded more than 900 grants totaling approximately $30 million throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia, including the Alton Middle School upgrades.

“There’s an application process, and I became aware of it because it’s the same grant that Brett Huff, a Roxana alum, got for the improvements of the Alton Middle School fields in 2013,” Harper said.

“After I got the job at Roxana this was something I talked to (athletics director) Chad (Ambuehl) about. Even the coaches before me like coach (Joe) Huff, coach (Mike) Arbuthnot and coach (Nathan) Smay, this has been a wish-list item for improvements to the field.”

It was a no-brainer to pursue the grant, in Harper’s mind. The backstop at Roxana’s field dates back to the 1950s when the complex was initially built. There have been some structural changes to it, but it’s past time for a complete facelift to the field, including a new backstop much closer to home plate.

“In June I got permission from the board to move forward with applying for it,” Harper said. “I went through the process and utilized Brett and his experiences. First you have to meet their criteria before you can apply. You fill out a letter of inquiry and give them the basic parameters of what you’re wanting to do, then once you get the approval you go through and fill out the application. We applied and the deadline was July 1, then in the end of August we were contacted to have a site visit. The executive director, Cathy Bradley, from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund came in and met with us and asked more questions about the program and got to see the facility first-hand … We were then notified in the end of September that we would receive the award.”

It really boils down to a complete modernization to the complex and, of course, refurbishing the field of play.

There will be a new netting system for the backstop, moving the backstop up, new dugouts, a block storage building as part of the dugout, protective fencing in front of the dugouts and a grass infield with an irrigation system. They will also do some level grading and laser grading. Those are all the parts covered under the grant.

What MLB really likes to see is dedication to growing the game of baseball and growing the program, something dear to Harper.

“It’s really about what are you going to do tomorrow with the program, growing it and connecting kids and getting more kids involved with the game,” Harper said.

The Roxana School District hopes to start accepting bids soon, award one in December and then start looking to when construction can start.

“Based on weather, if it looks like we will have a big enough window to go ahead with the backstop and dugout portion of the project before the spring season, somewhere in January, February or March then we’ll do that, if not then the whole project would be done after the summer season,” Harper said.

“The way they like to do it is from award date to completion date is one calendar year. Ideally we’d like to have it fully completed by September of 2017.”

So look for a refurbished Roxana baseball field either for the ‘17 season, or the ‘18 season at the latest.

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