When the Martinez Evans Little League season begins Tuesday, teams at Crawford Creek Park will start on a level playing field.
MELL spent $30,000 on improvements in recent months, primarily to the D’Antignac, Wheeler and Zaxby’s fields at the complex. The three fields are used by majors (11- to 12-year-olds), minors (9- to 11-year-olds) and machine pitch (7- to 8-year-olds) leagues.
“That’s the bread and butter of the league,” said MELL President Mike Daly. “We probably average between seven and 10 teams in each league. That’s where we felt the best investment would be made in terms of the field resources.”
There were a few items that needed addressing.
“We had a lot of issues with drainage and things like that,” Daly said. “Standing water would gather around the bases and behind home plate.”
Already, Daly said, the fields look better.
“The grass is really starting to come in where they’ve been neglected the past few years,” he said.
Fans will be able to keep track of the action on upgraded scoreboards as well, including a digital board on the majors’ field.
Daly said the cost of the improvements was split between registration fees, the league’s annual fund-raising carnival and donations from sponsors.
The league leases the land for the park from Columbia County, and the county was able to provide assistance in the process. The park is located off South Old Belair Road.
County Construction and Maintenance Services Director Matt Schlachter met with Daly and was able to suggest ways to reduce costs.
“(Daly) basically gave me a game plan and asked me what I thought about it,” said Schlachter. “I thought he had a really good game plan about improving the quality of the fields.”
In addition to fixing the fields, two new scoring towers have been constructed. There now are nets over the stands to improve safety, and the bullpens are also enclosed with netting.
Daly said the next big project would be to improve parking at Crawford Creek. As part of a long-range plan, Daly envisions adding another ball field and being able to play games just at Crawford Creek. Currently, the league is split between Crawford Creek, Kelley Park in Martinez and Liberty Park in Grovetown.
“I’d say the masterplan is to continue to invest the money back into the fields, to have everything consolidated in one area because the land is here,” Daly said.
Schlachter said he could see that happening in the future and that the county will do what it can to help.
“We have the room already,” Schlachter said. “Right now, we’re just using it to stockpile material, so they could turn that into another ball field.”