Minnesota Twins invest in local little league field

Gateway Area Community Center Director Jorge Rodriguez and GACC Board President Ashley Franzen discuss a $5,000 grant from the Minnesota Twins for renovation of a baseball field on the property.Winona Whitaker/Clinton Herald

CLINTON — A $5,000 grant from the Minnesota Twins will help make a new little league baseball field a reality for Gateway Area Community Center, Director Jorge Rodriguez said Monday.

"We know there's a shortage of baseball fields in town," Rodriguez said. He wants children to have a place to play ball whenever they want rather than having to schedule time on little league fields. "There's kids already that come and use it," he said.

The GACC board of directors is calling the field The Little League Field of Dreams, Rodriguez said.

Board Member Theresa Rieger found the Twins grant, "and we were blessed enough to actually receive it," Rodriguez said. "We told them we had some kids that were practicing... in the inside gym." The long winter prohibited practice outside for many spring and summer sports teams.

The $5,000 won't cover total expenses for the renovation of baseball field behind the former Henry Sabin Elementary School. "We'll look for a lot of in-kind [labor]," Rodriguez said.

Josh Riddle, one of the parents, will guide GACC in measuring and setting up the field, Rodriguez said. "He was a little league coach for a lot of years."

Riddle mows the field now -- vacant except for a rusted backstop -- and Rodriguez hopes Riddle's employer will allow the community center to use its excavating equipment to break ground. He hopes Cramer Construction, which erected the signs in front of the community center, will help put up a scoreboard.

That's the type of in-kind labor Rodriguez is looking for, he said.

GACC will be looking for sponsors who will donate money or services in exchange for having their names on the fence and will entertain granting naming rights. The Minnesota Twins name will, of course, will have a prominent spot at the field, Rodriguez said.

Bleachers will probably be the most expensive purchase, Rodriguez said, and the cost will vary depending on whether they're fixed or moveable, new or used.

Rodriguez is hoping the city will help GACC with it's effort. "We love repurposing equipment." Anything the city is replacing, such as lights, GACC is willing to take, using what it can and disposing appropriately what it can't make use of, Rodriguez said.

"We can get so much accomplished if we work together."

A native of Centerville, Winona comes to the Clinton Herald after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.