Elsie Allen High School’s fields fix gets assist

Elsie Allen High junior varsity players Luis Viramontes, left, Jemeir Ferguson, center and Byron Vega, right, work on the school fields Saturday. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Elsie Allen High junior varsity players Luis Viramontes, left, Jemeir Ferguson, center and Byron Vega, right, work on the school fields Saturday. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

By LORI A. CARTER

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The battered Elsie Allen High School baseball and softball fields got a much-needed spa day over the weekend.

Dozens of youth athletes, coaches and other volunteers raked, groomed, weeded and shoveled the ball fields, providing a much-needed rejuvenation to the forlorn southwest Santa Rosa fields.

First-year varsity baseball coach Matt Kasch rallied friends, community volunteers and former Giants pitcher Noah Lowry to fix up the fields that have been allowed to deteriorate with the drought and an offseason lack of attention.

“There were weeds on weeds on weeds, with another layer of weeds,” Kasch said of the junior varsity baseball field’s “before” version.

But with about 40 kids and adults out there with rakes and shovels in hand, it was transformed into a field that is downright presentable. Both softball fields, which he said looked “apocalyptic,” are also on the mend.

Lowry, on an ATV, cleared the newly de-weeded infields with a “spike dragger,” and shovelers filled in and evened out the playing surfaces, said Skip Wallace, a Santa Rosa city recreation coordinator.

The junior varsity baseball field was in terrible shape when workers showed up Saturday morning.

“That field was about 75-80 percent weeds, just totally overgrown,” Wallace said.

“By the end of the day, there was a legitimate infield and it’s playable.”

Wallace also serves as the commissioner of a newly formed Santa Rosa Junior Giants program. Players from the Junior Giants, a youth development program of the nonprofit San Francisco Giants Community Fund, will use the fields this summer.

The father of the school’s vice principal arranged for the use of a steam roller to compact the infield dirt and make it more consistent and safe.

By nightfall, the fields had been cleared, dragged, groomed, aerated and seeded.

The work comes just in time, as the school’s baseball and softball seasons are kicking off. The boys’ first home baseball game is Tuesday against Kelseyville.

Finally, infielders won’t feel like they need a catcher’s mask and shin guards to field grounders.

“All the ground balls I’ve hit so far have rolled true,” Kasch said after the work. “It’s night and day from where it was before.”

Much of the credit goes to Kasch’s idea to appeal to the community for help through a crowd-sourcing account at GoFundMe.com, which put out the call for $5,000 to rehab the fields.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fund had $3,490 in donations.

“It was a little overwhelming at first,” he said. “I got phone calls after phone calls, emails, texts. It’s amazing how the community has supported us.

“Now, the kids, all they need to worry about is getting better at baseball and having a better season. We still have to do maintenance, but we don’t have to worry. Now it’s baseball mode for them so they can expand their learning.”

(Want to help? Visit the Elsie Allen field GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/jwichs)

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

  • trycommonsense

    What would be great is if the school or school district would seek out volunteers in the landscaping ,turf management , sporting facilities management , soils engineering .etc.. fields and have the kids do the work while learning something that might lead them down a career path.

  • mikeg55 .

    Play Ball!