Once upon a time youth baseball and softball were strictly spring and summer sports.
Not any more. Almost everywhere youngsters are preparing for fall ball, which is more than just a companion to the spring competition. Champions are crowned and real games are played, though the focus is more on development.
And in Weatherford, many of those games will be played on the renovated fields at Williams and Carmichael Fields in Soldier Springs Park on Charles Street when the fall season opens on Saturday (Sept. 19).
"We stripped the infield of Williams and Carmichael Fields and had the surface graded to perfectly level," said Weatherford Little League President Jacob Holt. "We also used laser alignment systems to ensure that the base paths were perfectly centered and the new mound was at the appropriate height.
"We used brand new dirt for the infield and planted new grass in the infields, which should provide a better, safer playing environment for the kids."
The renovations bring to three the number of parks that have had an overhaul in the past year, give or take. Holt said Riddle Field, the T-ball field, was reworked about 12 months ago.
Shannon Goodman, city of Weatherford director of parks, recreation and special events, said the total cost to renovate the Williams and Carmichael Fields was about $30,000 with the city paying $12,500 and Weatherford Little League covering the rest. The city paid for the their put of the cost using user fees collected from WLL over the past few seasons, she said, adding that this funding will continue to be used for future projects at the ballfields.
"It is very important for the city and Weatherford Little League to have a strong relationship through communication," she said. "It takes a lot of coordination in the parks and recreation office to make sure there are not any conflicts with schedule for Weatherford Little League games, city rentals and the lighting schedule."
Goodman said those two fields were chosen for renovation because of safety concerns and field usage. She said the base paths had worn down to create large grass edges of about 4 or 5 inches.
"These were safety hazards that had to be addressed," she said.
"Weatherford Little League Association believes that our partnership with the city is one of the most important relationships we have," said Holt. "We are stewards of these fields for several months each year and appreciate the trust that the city has extended to us.
"We enjoy working with the city and believe that it is a mutually beneficial relationship. I think Weatherford Little League Association and the City are both excited to invest in the fields and make these facilities as nice and safe as possible for our kids and the fans."
Apparently the youths and their families are appreciative also. Holt said fall registration is approaching 450 participants.
"This is higher than what we were expecting and is a great sign that some of the recent changes we've implemented with marketing and social media are paying off," he said.
Both Holt and Goodman said more improvements are on the horizon for the baseball fields in Soldier Spring Park.
"We do expect to continually improve the park," said Holt. "We are establishing a capital improvements committee, which will partner with the city to determine where and how we can best invest in our facilities.
"Other than small jobs such as painting, we don't have our next major project identified yet, but potential candidates include new batting cages, new bleachers, new scoreboards, a repaved parking lot, etc."