NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Parents and coaches with Walter “Pop” Smith Little League say New Haven city employees do the best they can to maintain their baseball fields, but the grounds need more work in order for the city to have the fields of their dreams.
Anthony Murrell, a father whose 4-and-8-year-old sons play in the league, is concerned about the conditions.
“We travel around to [play in] Orange, and Milford, and Shelton. We, by far, have the worst little league facility in the area,” Murrell said.
League leaders say the facilities at Bowen Field in Beaver Pond Park are in terrible shape.
The lineup of issues includes replacing clay, grass, and fencing; the dugouts and fields flood and nearby sidewalks are cracked.
League Treasurer and Board member, Steve Itkin, says their diverse, inner-city organization serves 330 boys and girls from ages 4-12 — and they often feel like they’re in a league of their own.
“Someone said to me at the Parks Department, ‘Well, the suburbs are different,’ Itkin said. “And that hit me because the suburbs aren’t different. The kids in the suburbs aren’t different. Kids here deserve exactly what everyone has.”
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The plan includes renovating the concrete concession stand. Gary Tinney, a community advocate and former league board member and coach, says volunteers use the stand to earn revenue to support the league.
“You have them in a hotbox, especially during the summer, and they’re in there for hours,” Tinney said. “So, you want a facility that’s going to be welcoming.”
The league says, ballpark range, they need $150,000.
Mayor Justin Elicker says the city set aside $5 Million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to invest in parks, and they’re willing to step up to the plate to work with the league, which has served New Haven since 1952.
“A lot of these little things make a big difference, not just because they help you play the game better, but also because it sets a statement of the city’s value in these types of programs,” Elicker said.
Murrell hopes the city doesn’t balk and hits a home run with young players.
“Our children do see the surrounding town facilities and they ask us all the time, ‘Why does our field look like that?” Murrell said.