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Fields readied for opening day

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Steve Davidovich and volunteers from Youth Baseball Southwest Colorado and the Kiwanis Club of Durango were putting the finishing touches on the Alpine Bank Youth Sports Complex on Saturday morning.

By Robert Galin Herald staff writer

Volunteers with Youth Baseball Southwest Colorado and the Kiwanis on Saturday helped put some of the finishing touches on the new baseball fields next to the Animas-La Plata pumping station. The fields will be dedicated at 9 a.m. April 20 with special guest Darryl Strawberry, a nine-time Major League Baseball All-Star.

“Little League is the oldest youth sports organization in the country,” said Matt Pope, a former board member of Youth Baseball. But these are the first fields in Durango’s recent history solely dedicated to baseball and softball, he said.

The Alpine Bank Youth Sports Complex includes two Little League diamonds and one practice field at the site off County Road 210 north of Bodo Industrial Park. There are about 400 children in the Durango group, plus 150 to 200 in Bayfield and more on the Cortez-Mancos and Ignacio teams, Pope said.

The fields are part of a change in Youth Baseball status, which used to be part of the Farmington American Amateur Baseball Congress, a Little League competitor.

“We are part of Colorado, not part of New Mexico,” Pope said explaining the break.

Durango’s group applied for its own charter from Little League, which hosts the Little League Baseball World Series. The fields also will host girls’ softball, Pope said.

The complex was made possible by substantial contributions of cash and in-kind donations, Pope said. He estimated cash donations of about $250,000 and in-kind donations, such as supplies, labor and equipment, of about $150,000 so far.

Saturday’s work included installing the pitching mounds, weeding, putting the bleachers together and the like.

Helping out at the fields were about a dozen members of the Kiwanis Club of Durango.

Kiwanis President Lisa Barrett said Saturday was the Kiwanis organization’s worldwide service day, or Kiwanis One Day as it’s called. On One Day, Kiwanis clubs worldwide try to focus on community service, especially service that helps children in some way.

“What’s better than baseball and kids?” Barrett said.

Pope said the fields already are wired for lights, but those will cost another $150,000. The combined concession stand and Youth Baseball headquarters building on site will cost another $150,000 or so, he said.

Right now, there’s no regular place to properly house the organization’s documents and memorabilia, Pope said. The group’s board also would use the building for its meetings and other events.

Strawberry is a controversial figure in sports, as much for his legal problems as for his impressive baseball stats. But he also is a survivor of colon cancer and has become a born-again Christian. His public talks are now filled with inspirational messages.

“He has a great message,” Pope said.

The evening before the dedication, April 19, Strawberry will be at Whalen Gym at Fort Lewis College to discuss his rise, fall and redemption.

Admission to that event is free, and doors will open at 5:45 p.m., though donations taken at the event will benefit La Plata County Search and Rescue.

At the Friday-night event, there will be drawings for autographed jerseys and photo opportunities.

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